Blanco County Commissioners held a Special meeting at 10:00 a.m. in the Commissioners Courtroom of the Blanco County Courthouse, Johnson City, TX. All four County Commissioners and Judge Bill Guthrie were present at the meeting. The Special meeting provided interested parties an opportunity to express concerns regarding budgetary matters to the Commissioners Court.
Judge Guthrie opened the meeting. He said there were six items that would be addressed, and asked those who wished to speak to sign in. Speakers had a five-minute time limit in which to speak.
Judge Guthrie said, “There are some errors and omissions since the budget workshop that I would like to bring to your attention. There is a change to the County Attorney Budget, and that figure remains the same as 2012-2013; the Sheriff and Jail Budgets are combined into one figure; the entry for Special County Prosecutor has been reduced because of an offset by the County Investigator; and there is an increase in the budget expense for a part-time salary for Justice of the Peace #1. These are the only errors that I have found. We will now hear from the general public and interested parties.” Judge Guthrie then asked for public comments.
Bob Shelton was the first speaker to address the Commissioners Court. “When the new jail opened in 2012 we were told it would be difficult to properly estimate operational costs. Since then there have been reductions, or shortfalls. The jail requires a minimum number of staff and the loss of inter-county agreements includes that.”
Marion Hoy of the Texas Jail Commission also spoke. “Overtime funding has always been an issue…it was during Sheriff Ellsbury’s time too. The proposal needs to cover overtime, operational costs, emergency expenses, and holidays…I believe our citizens are willing to pay higher taxes if they go toward the Sheriff’s office. Let’s have an open forum to decide.”
Chelita Riley also addressed the Commissioners Court. “We have seen an increase in property tax, but we need other revenue. Surplus property could provide some revenue, as well as other ideas. We must promote our safety by increasing pay for our law enforcement…let’s show them the respect they deserve.”
Susan Kirchman said that in addition to safety, hazard waste pickup is a critical issue, as we are “stewards of the land.” She recommended making whatever changes were necessary to fix the budget.
Blanco County Sheriff Bob Morgan was the next person to speak. Sheriff Morgan said, “I need two new Jail Commissioners and three new deputies and my part-time employee reinstated. I need increased funds… we can’t operate on overtime pay.” John McClintock asked if it was necessary to keep offering the early payment discounts. “I like to save money, but is what we are doing adequate?”
Jennifer Shoemaker addressed the overtime pay issue. Shoemaker said, “We cannot make it on overtime, because we have to operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We will lose money if the interlocal agreements for out of county prisoners are not addressed.”
Tex Riley asked everyone to remember the Gettysburg Address, saying, “We must pay attention to remedy the needs of law enforcement in the County by not reducing funds…the jail has been built…citizens get the burden to pay for the jail because the out of county prisoners were taken away.”
Another citizen spoke up and said she has 30 years in law enforcement. She extended an offer of help to the County, saying she does not want to see an increase in crime because of budget shortages. The subject of automobile liability of County vehicles was addressed by Elaine Cross. Cross asked, “What about volunteers being able to ride along in County vehicles? We may need to take a second look at the policy of insurance coverage for everyone and consider the cost of coverage of others in County vehicles. There may be a need for a second person in the vehicles at some point.”
At that time the comments regarding the Proposed 2013-2014 Blanco County Budget ended. Judge Guthrie asked if there were any corrections to the proposed budget. There were none. Judge Guthrie asked for a motion to consider accepting the 2013-204 Blanco County Budget, and a motion was made by County Commissioner John Wood. A second motion was given by County Commissioner James Sultemeier. Judge Guthrie asked for discussion, and the Court voted in favor of consideration of accepting the 2013-2014 Blanco County Budget. The Special meeting adjourned until the 1:30 p.m. Special meeting of the Commissioners Court.
After the meeting ended, the Blanco County News learned from Judge Guthrie that County funding to the Sheriff’s Department and Jail has increased over the last three years. The figures are as follows: 2012: $1,514,617.48; 2013: $1,725,167.55; 2014: $1,728,200.07.
Judge Guthrie called the second Special meeting to order at 1:30 p.m. The first order of business was consideration of ratifying the tax increase in the amount of $72,269. According to Judge Guthrie, “The increase is due to new construction, and under the new guidelines we must ratify and declare the tax increase. Commissioner James Sultemeier gave a motion to ratify the tax increase in the amount of $72,269, and Commissioner Paul Granberg seconded the motion. There was no discussion, and the motion carried.
County Commissioner Chris Liesmann made a motion to consider adoption of the Blanco County Budget for FY 2013-2014 and Commissioner John Wood seconded. There was no discussion and the action passed. The County Commissioners were asked to consider setting the tax rate for FY 2013-2014 as the effective rate of $0.357400 of which $0.063600 is for debt service. Judge Guthrie said, “This amount is the effective rate, not the tax increase rate. “ A motion to set the tax rate for FY 2013-2014 as the effective rate of $0.357400 of which $0.063600 for debt service was provided by Commissioner Granberg and seconded by Commissioner Sultemeier. There was no discussion, and the action passed.
The Court considered setting the homestead exemption. Judge Guthrie said, “Although this is not required, it [setting the homestead exemption] is something we’ve always done in the past…we want to keep it the same.” A motion to set the homestead exemption at 1% of the appraised value with a minimum exemption of $5,000 was made by Commissioner Wood, and a second was given by Commissioner Liesmann. Judge Guthrie asked for discussion, and there was none. The vote to set the homestead exemption passed.
The final item for consideration was to set the early discount payments as follows: 3% for payments made in October 2013, 2% for payments made in November 2013, 1% for payments made in December 2013. Judge Guthrie said, “Every year we get calls at budget time about this, and schools and other taxing entities get to collect early payments too because of the County discounts offered in October versus January.” County Commissioner Granberg gave a motion to set the early discount payments and Commissioner Wood seconded the motion. There was no discussion, and this action was approved by all four County Commissioners. There was no further business and the 1:30 p.m. Special meeting ended.