Somervell County Commissioners on Monday approved a new $15.4 million budget that slightly lowers the county property tax rate.

Most property owners, however, won't see lower taxes because their valuations increased from a year ago. The fiscal 2011-2012 tax rate was set at 35.11 cents per $100 valuation. That's less than one-thousandth of a cent from last year.

The new budget also contains funding for a full-time position at the county's Heritage Center, which earlier had appeared to be threatened. That means the center's director, Betty Gosdin, will keep her job for at least another year.

The Somervell County Fire Department also received funding for its request for a new ladder truck. The truck, which will take a year to build, costs $1.3 million. The new budget includes $250,000 for the 2011-2012 fiscal year for the truck, which will contain a 100-foot ladder.

The department's current ladder truck is several decades old, was purchased in refurbished condition and is no longer safe to use, Fire Department Chief Mark Crawford has said.

The commissioner's courtroom was standing-room-only as spectators filled the chambers to watch the proceedings and to speak on behalf of keeping the Heritage Center fully staffed and in favor of buying the new fire truck.

County Judge Mike Ford and County Commissioner John Curtis, who represents Precinct 2, both declined pay raises.

The budget includes expenses of $15,399,670 and revenues of $13,451,045. The cash balance at this end of this fiscal year is $7.855 million and likely will be $5.9 million as of next September.