Somervell County’s proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 is now available for the public to view.
It was posted Monday, and can be found online (http://www.somervell.co/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/2018-Proposed-Budget-Package.pdf).
It’s still not quite time for the commissioners and other county officials to do cartwheels in celebration, however.
Last Friday marked the final budget workshop for input from the Commissioners Court. The proposed budget was filed by County Judge Danny Chambers Monday afternoon.
After a minimum 15-day waiting period, in which the Commissioners Court is not allowed to discuss the budget, the court will meet again to either approve it or make more adjustments.
“This is just the first major step of the process,” County Auditor Brian Watts said after Friday’s workshop. “When the commissioners approve the final budget, that is when it will be a brand new day for the auditor. I have spent the last few weekends working late at home.”
The final version of the budget must be approved by midnight on Sept. 30.
Watts and Chambers both had positive things to say about the budget proposal as it stands.
Chambers said on Monday morning that it’s the most “common-sense” budget proposal he has seen in “many years.”
“Budget-wise, it has bene a good process,” Chambers said.
“It will be a complete, balanced budget that he (Chambers) will propose, without using any of the reserves,” Watts said.
Watts said he recalls the last time the county had a balanced budget was 2014.
Revenue from property taxes for the county will increase by $443,081 over last year's budget. That's up 4.37 percent over 2017. Revenue to be raised form new property added to the tax roll will be $95,398.
Raises for elected and unelected county employees are included in the budget proposal, and they can also be seen online in the budget proposal package. That came about after a 2017 salary survey of county employee salaries in the immediate area showed that the Somervell County salaries were lagging behind, according to County Personnel Director Paula Stinson.
Chambers said that there had been no significant salary increases for county employees in several years.
"I think everybody realized they had to take a hard look and realize what folks were being paid," Chambers said.
The final significant amount - about $6,000 - needed to form a balanced budget was worked out last Friday.
"The sheriff did some cutting on equipment purchases he had requested," Watts said. "We were able to care take of one fire department item this year. And we are getting some favorable indications we won't be having significant increases in health insurance."
One thing that was reported incorrectly in last Friday’s article about a previous budget workshop was the amount of contingency money in the new budget. The actual amount to be available for unforeseen expenditures in the contingency fund is approximately $350,000. A much larger amount previously reported was incorrect.
Another correction has to do with a reference to the county trying to sell the Somervell County Expo Center.
Watts said Friday that the county had ended talks with a Canadian bidder as of late June, in a decision announced after going into a closed executive session.
“It was a specific timeline the buyer had put on his proposal,” Watts explained. “We were getting a lot of delays on his part. We felt like time was of the essence.”
The delay was causing problems with booking events because of the uncertainty, Watts said.
“In the best interest of the taxpayers, we had to withdraw because it just wasn’t going anywhere,” Watts said.
Watts said the commissioners have no plans to begin a new bidding process. The Expo Center has not been a money-maker for the county, and Watts stated that the commissioners court will “be focusing on that to see what we can do to turn that around.”