|Trinity Standard - Local News
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County returns $42,000 to TCAD
Trinity Standard -
GROVETON – In a split 3-2 vote Monday, Trinity County commissioners agreed to return over $42,000 to the Trinity County Appraisal District (TCAD). The money in question was part of $133,000 in surplus funds collected by TCAD that had accumulated over several years. Last month, commissioners voted to have TCAD reimburse the county for its share of the surplus. During Monday's meeting, TCAD Board Chairman John Reynolds appeared before the commissioners to ask that they reconsider that move. TCAD is charged with setting the tax appraisal values on all property in the county and Reynolds noted the county as well as all other tax collecting entities in Trinity County fund the agency's budget. Over the years, TCAD has always had money left over and has used it to build up a contingency fund to cover unexpected expenses. Reynolds said last year the agency had to spend more than $20,000 from the fund to make foundation repairs on its Groveton building and to install a handicapped access ramp at the Trinity office. "There was an informal agreement among the various tax entities to allow the district to accumulate this fund. This way, anytime something unexpected came up, we wouldn't have to come to them in the middle of the year and ask for more money," Reynolds said. While TCAD has always ended the year with a surplus, Reynolds said the amount usually was small and over a period of 10-12 years, they had built up a contingency fund of about $93,000. However, in 2012, Reynolds said the TCAD board deliberately decided to increase the fund's total so the agency would have enough money to take care to two major expense items this year. To increase the fund's total, TCAD did not fill one of its assistant appraiser positions in 2012 and Reynolds said the savings in salary and benefits boosted the contingency fund to over $156,000. When the repairs to the Groveton and Trinity offices were made, the overall total dropped to $133,783. The TCAD board chairman explained the agency had hoped to use $50,000 of that total this year to purchase new hardware and software for a computerized mapping system. Another $50,000 was earmarked to purchase new aerial photos of the county. Reynolds added the TCAD board also had planned to use the remaining $33,000 to replace the roof on the Trinity office and to make plumbing repairs in Groveton. By returning the county's share of the surplus fund, Reynolds said the TCAD board feels it would be obligated to return money to all of the other entities. He noted that the Trinity Independent School District would be owed $34,000 while the Groveton ISD's share would be about $27,000. While noting it is the right of all of the taxing entities to reclaim their share of the surplus funds, Reynolds asked the commissioners to allow TCAD to use the money for its planned projects this year. Pct. 3 Commissioner Neal Smith noted that he was the one who made the motion last month to have the $42,000 returned to the county. "I was not aware of all of this at that time and I would like to rescind the motion I made last month," Smith said, adding that he now understands that TCAD has a need for the money. Pct. 1 Commissioner Grover "Tiger" Worsham said he also understands TCAD position, but noted that the county also has a need for the cash. "We've had to go through some pretty tough tax increases in the past," he said, adding he feel obligated to insure the money is spent for the benefit of the taxpayers. "Some costs, such as the appraisal district's budget, we don't have much control over," he added, Pct. 2 Commissioner Rich Chamberlin, who seconded Smith's motion to return the money, indicated the county had a choice of paying now or paying later. "If we keep the money it would put a serious crimp in the operation of the appraisal district," he said. County Judge Doug Page noted that while the appraisal district has managed to end their budget years with surpluses, the county has been forced to borrow money at the end of its fiscal year in order to meet their budget. In the vote, Page and Worsham voted against returning the money while Smith, Chamberlin and Pct. 4 Commissioner Jimmy Brown voted to allow TCAD to use the surplus funds. Bulletin board approved In other business Monday, Commissioners voted to relocate a bulletin board from the Trinity County Courthouse Annex in Groveton to the Trinity County Subcourthouse in Trinity. The bulletin board in question is one of two located on the outside of the courthouse annex and was the official area for posting legal notices when the Trinity County Courthouse was being renovated. Once the courthouse reopened, the official bulletin board was returned to the inside of the three-story building. The bulletin boards on the outside of the courthouse annex were scheduled to be taken down and put in storage but Smith asked that one of them be placed in Trinity. "I don't see any reason that the citizens of Trinity should have to drive 20 miles to see the notices. Why can't we just put them up in Trinity and Groveton?" he said, adding if the people in Apple Springs wanted a notice board, he would support it. Smith said he contacted Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace Bobby Nichols' secretary to see if she would be willing to post the notices if they were faxed to her office. "She said there would be no problem," he said. Page noted that anyone interested can go online and see the notices on the county's webpage but Smith responded that there are plenty of people, including himself, who do not use computers. The county judge also questioned whether having a second bulletin board would cause liability problems if one or more notices were not posted in Trinity. County Attorney Joe W. Bell said the board inside the courthouse would remain as the official area for positing notices required by law. The Trinity board would be unofficial and should not present a liability problem. Smith, a former Trinity City Councilman, noted for years there has been friction between the Trinity and Groveton communities and he wanted to work to end that situation. Having a bulletin board in Trinity was a small step in solving the problem, but it is a step, he said. "Before they kick me out of office in four years, I'm going to do what ever I can to tear down the wall that seems to exist at White Rock Creek between Trinity and Groveton," he said. Other business During the meeting, commissioners also: • Voted to schedule a public hearing to seeing a 25 mile per hour speed limit on J.T. Jordan Road in Precinct 4. The hearing will be held during the commissioners' May 13 meeting, which starts at 9 a.m. • Approve a proclamation designating April as Fair Housing Month in Trinity County. • Voted to declare three vehicles assigned to constable offices as surplus and offer them for sale under sealed bids. The vehicles include a 1997 and a 2002 Ford Crown Victorias and a 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee. • Approved the resale of five lots in the Port Adventure and The Plantation subdivisions that were seized for the non-payment of taxes.