Brazos County Court of Commissioners unable to vote on tax rate approval | Latest titles

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During the Brazos County Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday morning, the commissioners planned to approve the county budget and levy a property tax rate. However, with two of the five commissioners absent from the meeting, the proposed property tax rate could not be voted on.

Commissioners Steve Aldrich and Russ Ford chose not to attend Tuesday’s meeting, and it takes four commissioners present to approve a tax rate. Commissioners must approve a tax rate by Sept. 29, according to Brazos County Auditor and Budget Officer Katie Conner.

“We will not be able to hire new jailers, and we are required by law to have as many jailers per inmate. … The district attorney’s office will not be able to appoint prosecutors,” Commissioner Nancy Berry said Wednesday. “I think the commissioners were irresponsible. Dereliction of duty. The two things we do absolutely by constitution are pass the budget that balances and set a tax rate. We shouldn’t have two people controlling the five-member tribunal by not showing up to do their jobs.

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Brazos County Judge Duane Peters and Berry and Irma Cauley voted to approve the official fiscal year 2022-23 budget of $377 million. The vote on the budget required only three commissioners present. According to Conner, the approved budget will increase total property taxes by 15.28% over last year’s budget.

During an August 23 meeting, in a 3-2 vote, the commissioners voted on a proposal to reduce the tax rate by one cent from $0.4835 per $100 of assessment, with Aldrich and Ford against. The current tax rate for the 2021 tax year is $0.4935 per $100 of assessment.

“If time is short, it will automatically revert to the tax rate with no new income [of $0.4294 per $100 valuation], which will take $12 million out of the budget. We can take that from the fund balance to balance the budget,” Peters said during the meeting.

Aldrich said Wednesday that he and Ford decided not to attend Tuesday’s meeting after the second time they asked the court to reconsider the tax rate and were “rejected.”

“The tax rate that was proposed on this budget … was a rate that was a tax increase of 15.28%,” he said. “I cannot justify taking care of Brazos County employees to offset the cost of living, increasing the cost of living for Brazos County taxpayers. They face the same effects of inflation, it doesn’t make sense.

Aldrich said he favors a tax rate of $0.4435 or $0.4535 per $100 assessment because either would be neutral for the average homeowner in Brazos County or neutral for the budget. .

“This budget can be run at a lower tax rate than it is and not tax property owners an additional $7 million beyond what is needed to run the budget,” he said. declared. “Why do we have $88 million [in fund balance for the end of FY 2022]that’s 96% of our annual ad valorem revenue in a sustaining model losing purchasing power, when it could be used to do things that Brazos County could benefit from doing? »

Peters said Wednesday there was $80 million in the 2022 fiscal year-end fund balance and $8 million in American Rescue Plan Act designated funds, which can only be used for certain expenses.

“We balanced the budget we passed with $25 million on the fund balance. If the tax rate goes to $0.4294, it will take another $12 million from the fund balance to balance it,” he said. “The discussion was that we have $10 million in restricted fund balance, which is for emergencies and operations and you only use it for emergencies.”

Peters and Berry said it was important to have an effective fund balance for county emergency needs. With the proposed tax rate of $0.4835, of the remaining fund balance of $80 million, $25 million can be used for capital projects, ongoing expenditures, and uncompleted projects; and the rest can be saved for county emergencies, hiring needs, road and bridge work and emergency dispatch operations, Peters said.

Ford said Wednesday that the commissioners must agree to use part of the fund’s remaining balance to pay the budget.

“It’s okay if we only have $80 million in unrestricted fund balance. … If the county didn’t receive money for three months, we could still operate on the fund balance for that long.” “, he said. “The projections that I’ve seen – and I’m not quoting that as fact – but the projections that I’ve seen is that by raising taxes from 15.28 % on an average $250,000 home, it would cost them an extra $200 a year in taxes. .”

According to Kristy Roe, Brazos County Tax Assessor, the average price of a home in Brazos County is $305,000, which equals $9.65 per month at the proposed tax rate of $0.4835. , or about $115 per year.

Ford said the only leverage he has from his position is not to attend next Tuesday’s meeting, where the tax rate could be voted on.

“If we could organize a public workshop session on the [tax rate] to try to reach a consensus, yes I will be there,” he said.

Cauley did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

To consult the departmental budget, go to brazoscountytx.gov/368/Proposed-Budget.

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