Since County Judge Danny Chambers recently submitted his Somervell County budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year, the next step is up to the Commissioners Court.
Chambers turned in his proposed numbers for the 2019-2020 fiscal year before the state-mandated July 31 deadline. Somervell County Auditor Brian Watts said commissioners are allowed to discuss the proposed budget at some point after Aug. 15, as long as the final numbers and details are in order and finalized by Oct. 1 — the date when the new fiscal year begins.
Chambers said that a likely meeting date for the commissioners to consider the budget proposal could be Aug. 26.
At this point, the proposed county tax rate is 0.5375 cents per $100 of property evaluation, up from 0.489232 for last year’s budget.
“It was a fairly normal budget process,” Watts said Tuesday. “This year the court did a salary survey, so we did a whole bunch of changes to the salary structure. So those did have an impact, but everything else was pretty normal and customary.”
Chambers said, “I thought it went well so far.”
When asked if there were many tough obstacles to clear in the budget process this time around, he said, “No more than usual.”
For anyone interested in viewing budget details, the current proposed budget -- subject to changes, of course, can be found on the Somervell County website (www.somervell.co).
The online budget post states that, as of now, "This budget will raise more revenue from property taxes than last year's budget by an amount of $955,922, which is a 9.06 percent increase from last year's budget. The property tax revenue to be raised from new property added to the tax roll this year is $95,465."
Watts indicated that enough time had passed since the last salary survey that it was simply time to get caught up — and hopefully prevent some personnel losses of people leaving for higher-paying positions in area counties or even other professions.
“The court wanted to do it on a more frequent basis, in hopes that it would be less costly,” Watts said of the salary survey. “It’s been two or three years, the hopes are that the adjustments are not as material (expensive).”
All of the proposed step and grade salary changes are for rank-and-file county employees, not for any elected officials, Watts explained.
One proposed purchase on the new budget could be the acquisition of a new county ambulance, at a cost of $319,000. The Somervell County Fire Department has three ambulances, but one of the older ones is less reliable, prone to breakdowns, according to Watts. Once the custom-made ambulance is put together on a Ford frame, it takes about 10 months for it to be delivered.
One new twist for the upcoming year will be splitting Michelle Reynolds’ workload as the current district and county clerk. Reynolds will retain her job title as district clerk, but someone else will be handling the district court duties. Both are elected positions, but at first there will be an appointment made.
“My understanding is that the court will appoint someone (as district clerk) until the next election, to vote on a county clerk,” Watts said.