|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - September 2009
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company
County tax rate, budget hearing set for today
Polk County Enterprise - September 2009
LIVINGSTON — Polk County taxpayers another opportunity to comment on the proposed $25 million Polk County budget at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 8. At the first public hearing on the budget, Kathy Freeman took issue with what she claimed were salary figures for the secretary assigned to the DPS office in Livingston. She questioned why a secretary was paid $41,335.41. The proposed budget shows the salary to be $28,642.11. Group insurance is $7,143.12 a year, retirement $2,739.75 and $23,56.38 in payroll taxes. Since the employee who was singled out in Freeman’s comments has served in her position for several years, she also qualified for $720 a year in longevity pay.
The DPS secretary assists troopers with crash reports, filing citations with Justice of the Peace courts and filing paperwork on pending cases with the district attorney’s office. She also provides notary services and provides copies of accident reports to insurance companies, media outlets and the public as well as other customer service duties. The secretary also handles bookkeeping on time sheets for DPS staff and reconciles those with records in Austin. Local troopers also point out that Polk County is the only county in this DPS district to staff the office with a single office worker. The other county have two. In Sunday’s edition, a story on the earlier budget hearing understated the number of officers that work out of the DPS office.
There are 10 troopers, one sergeant, three license and weight officers, the driver’s license office and two game wardens. Those troopers said if they were required to do all their own paperwork, it would take each of them two to three days per week to complete The revenue generated by troopers would drop dramatically. Every JP has two secretaries to process tickets from troopers and sheriff’s deputies. If officers were required to do their own paperwork, it would take each of them off the streets for three days a week, according to DPS Sgt. Nita Bowen. San Jacinto County has two full time secretaries.
Justice of the Peace courts are budgeted to bring in $820,000 in court revenue during the 2010 fiscal year. That revenue comes from fines for offenses reported by all law enforcement officers as well as fees for civil cases. Research on the amount of yearly revenue that results from DPS citations was still under way as this edition went to press, but early data indicates that troopers alone generate more than $1 million. Proposed budget changes The revenue side of the county budget includes an additional $648,696.92 in ad valorem tax revenue. County Judge John Thompson budgeted $100,000 less in sales tax revenue.
The county’s main source of sales tax is from pipeline installed in the county. Many pipeline companies choose to pay the tax in the county where it is installed, since it is typically lower than the rates in effect where the pipe is purchased. Other taxes — hotel/motel occupancy, vehicle sales tax, mixed beverages, vehicle inventory taxes — are projected to increase by $11,000. Permits for building permits, sewer and liquor permits are expected to increase by $20,980 and include an increase in permit fees approved by commissioners this year. The budget proposal has revenue from other charges and fees dropping by $57,473.
Auto registration and vehicle licenses are predicted to drop $125,500 based on actual receipts for the 2009 fiscal year (FY09). Interest income will take the biggest dive by $244,090 based on actual FY09 receipts. The county will dip into the fund balance in the District Clerk’s Record Management Fee of $2,425. Overall, Thompson foresees an increase of $331,161.88 to cover anticipated expenses. On the expense side, the county will see an increase in personnel costs of $322,524.40 due to the rising cost of benefits.
Operating expenses are budgeted to go op $31,393.40 to cover a combination of changes that may include amendments to the FY09 budget for personnel and other expenses. Capital outlay will drop by $50,410.37 since the FY09 budgeted for a number of capital purchase requests that were funded in the general budget rather that the capital purchase list for the ensuing Reimbursement Resolution funded by tax notes. Debt service will decrease by $5,957.01 due to the favorable interest rate on 2009 Tax Notes. That reduced expense was offset by lower debt payments and debt retirement.
The Available School Fund is expected to increase $2,615. Personnel Changes in various departments will impact overall personnel costs, according to the budget proposal prepared by Thompson’s office. The district attorney’s office will have a net change of $22,721,70. Of that amount $33,111.71 is for a new victim services position and includes a $10,389.92 reduction in part-time personnel. Another $25,000 is budgeted for a DA special fund salary, but is reimbursed by the state. At the jail, another $21,306.64 will be needed to fund staff reorganization. The sheriff’s office also will receive another $25,000 plus benefits which will be moved from part time personnel to the operating fund.
In the Human Resources department, the proposed budget adds $1,049.11 to part time personnel for a total of nine hours per period. The Aging Services Department will decrease personnel expenses by $20,201 due to staffing reorganization. Operating Expenses The Commissioners Court operating budget will increase by $33,069.16 for offsetting increases and decreases in retiree health premiums, redistricting, attorney/ consulting fees, countywide events, IAH phone cards, Aging subsidy and service awards. The budget proposal provides $2,000 to purchase a truck vault for the Texas Ranger.
Another $4,000 is allocated to the County Clerk’s budget to allow for election costs and staffing at the sub-courthouse. Telephone expenses were cut by $6,000.53. Juror fees are expected to increase $20,000. The Judicial section of the budget was moved to individual departments for the 258th Judicial District and the 411th Judicial District. The Tax Assessor-Collectors budget will increase by $6,000 to cover increase in expenses to mail tax statements. Maintenance engineering and Custodial increases include $10,000 for supplies/repair, $7,500 for building repair, $6,300 for inspections, $4,500 for auto maintenance and $14,000 in IBM maintenance previously budgeted in capital expenses. The Sheriff/Jail budget will described $57,946 overall. Contract housing is reduced $24,000 (moved to part-time jail) and reduced fuel and oil expenses by $31,000.
Constables budget will decrease by $2,343.68 to offset personnel increase for cell phone allowances in requesting offices, the budget proposal says. The county’s share of appraisal district expenses went down by $27,403.25. The proposed budget is available for review on the Polk County website at www.co.polk.tx.us/ips/ cms. Click on the budget item in the menu on the left-hand side of the screen. BUDGET From Page 1A noculated by