Smith Co. Commissioners Court approves 2013 budget, decrease in tax rate

Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - 12:33pm

The Smith County Commissioners Court approved a 2013 Budget today that will decrease the tax rate while maintaining the same level of county services for citizens. Judge Baker, who serves as the county’s budget officer, credits careful financial management, conservative budgeting, and recent signs of economic growth over the past few years for the positive 2013 outlook.

With an anticipated $576,594 in additional revenue to be added to the tax roll this year due to new construction, the future looks more favorable for county coffers. “The overall picture is strong and enables us to make positive financial decisions this year that impact our employees, our citizens, and overall county management,” said Judge Baker.

The Smith County Appraisal District certified the tax roll with a very slight increase in appraised value from the previous year. County efforts to streamline operations have also enabled Judge Baker to propose a slight reduction in the tax rate to the effective tax rate for the upcoming year without adversely affecting the quality of services provided to citizens.

The complete 2013 Budget is available for the public to view online at www.smith-county.com. Highlights from this year’s budget include:

ü Reduction in the Current Tax RateThe current tax rate has been reduced to the effective tax rate. This is the first tax rate reduction since 1999.

ü Long Term Road Plans - FY2013 will be a year where: (1) a specific program is implemented to evaluate road traffic and conditions; (2) an evaluation process is developed to prioritize road needs based on that evaluation; and (3) outdated equipment will be replaced as we transition beyond this "maintenance mode" into a period of improving the crucial transportation infrastructure of the county.

ü Smith County Performance Pay Program (SCPPP) - The FY13 Proposed Budget introduces a pilot program for department leaders that ties any financial gain to performance of duties. The proposed program will include pre-defined goals and targets for each department head and will be designed to ensure a fair and impartial evaluation process.

ü Increased Fund Balance - The County adopted the General Fund Balance Reserve Policy in 2011 that restricts the spending of reserves except in limited circumstance. This “rainy-day fund” should be sufficient to cover 90 days of county expenditures. Fund balance ratios are used by rating agencies to assess financial stability and play a vital role in the County’s bond rating.

ü No salary increases are included for elected officials - Slight cost of living increases are included for non-entry level positions.

ü Decreased Operating Expenses - The FY13 Proposed Budget represents a 7.16% decrease in operating expenses from the adopted expenditures 5 years earlier.

ü PAYGO Projects- Smith County has allocated over $9M to facility improvement projects in the past six years with no new debt issued. FY13 continues the PAYGO program with an additional $1.6M allocated to further the Smith County Master Plan for facility needs.

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