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Hopkins County Tax increase likely on the way for property owners

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Jail construction is reason for higher rate

    After the Hopkins County Commissioners Court adopts its budget for fiscal year 2015, which starts Oct. 1, property owners in the county can expect to see a slightly higher tax bill.
    The tax increase of about a nickel for each $100 in property value can be attributed to the $16 million bond proposal passed by voters last November to fund construction of a new county jail.
    County Judge Robert Newsom said the budget proposal for the next financial year will call for a total of $18,834,591 in revenue and $14,244,504 in expenditures, leaving an estimated $4.5 million in fund balance.
    “Our net tax revenue is a little over $10 million and there are additional revenue that comes in through fines and court costs and all the things that come through county government. That's the revenue,” the judge said. “We will spend just about that much on salaries, benefits, fire and police protection, county roads — all of the things we do for the county. Eventually, this budget is going to balance, and that's what we are working toward right now.”     
    The proposed tax rate for the county for the coming year will be 61.2 cents, an increase of about five cents.
    “The tax rate from last year, which was 56.8 cents per $100 property value is what we have had for a number of years,” Newsom said. “The rate is going to go up because we are building the new jail, which is something that we really need.
    “It is a necessary thing,” he said. “The voters voted it in but it is going to cost a little bit more in the tax rate just because of the jail.”
    While the county's budget for the next year is, at this time, a work in progress, the county judge said he is very optimistic.
    “There are some good things happening in Hopkins County that are going to not only make the budget balance, but we're going to come out ahead next year, I believe,” he said. “We've got some new businesses that are coming in, we've got some businesses that are restarting, and I am optimistic that will work and will work better, actually, than we anticipate.”
    County commissioners must finalize the proposed budget in September. It will go into effect Oct. 1.

Council gives nod to building code amendment

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Sulphur Springs City Council members gave approval to an amendment to the city's Code of Ordinances in a regular meeting Tuesday evening.
    The amendment Article VI, adopting the International Property Maintenance Code into the city's code, will enable the city to work more closely with property owners in making sure buildings meet all safety requirements and issues.
    Council members again postponed action on a second ordinance on the agenda that would amend zoning rules, completely replacing the Signs and Identification Regulations. The ordinance was first presented to the council in June and has been on the table since.
    On first reading of an ordinance creating an Enterprise Zone for Saputo Foods, the council gave approval and will hear the ordinance in a second and final hearing in the September meeting.
    Sulphur Springs Police Chief James [Jay] Sanders, who was appointed to replace retiring Chief Jim Bayuk, was formally sworn into office  during the council meeting.
    In his routine report to the council, City Manager Marc Maxwell told the council that construction work on Davis Street in front of City Hall has been completed and with that completion comes the end of road construction in downtown Sulphur Springs.
    Maxwell also gave a quick report on the status of water in Cooper Lake.
    The lake level is more than eight feet low, but is still more than a foot higher than at this same time last year.
    The dredging operation at the lake by North Texas Municipal Water District to deepen the channel from the lake to the intake structure is continuing and is about 25 percent complete.
    With much citizen concern about potholes and other street problems, the city manager said that in the past month, the city's Capital Construction Division has patched 1,073 potholes, about half the pothole problems that have been identified.
    The crews would be back on the street filling potholes next month.

City Sulphur Springs Tax rate stays same, water rates increase in proposed budget

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Sulphur Springs City Council members were presented with copies of the city's draft budget for fiscal year 2015 in a workshop session Tuesday evening. Members will take a week to review the draft proposal and will come back for in-depth budget discussion and consideration.
    City Finance Director Peter Karstens, in presenting an overview of the proposed financial plan, told the council that anticipated revenues of $28,244,850 are up from last year, and he attributed the increase to several factors.
     “The net taxable value for the city has increased by 1.4 percent,” Karstens told the council. “We've had the same 44 cent property tax pretty much since 2003, and this budget continues at 44 cents.”
    Although sales tax revenue appears to be less than last year on a monthly basis, receipts overall were up from the previous year.
    “Last year, we had a big year, if you remember, we went up 10 percent,” Karstens said. “This year, it's settled back down. We're glad it did go up some, though.”
    Additional revenue will come from an increase in the franchise tax and the amount received from increased fines in the municipal court.
    The biggest single issue in the proposed budget will be the needed overhaul of the city's wastewater treatment plant, where improvements are anticipated to cost around $12 million.
    The proposed budget includes $800,000 for engineered plans and specifications for the project as well as extra costs for starting the project. The council will later be asked to consider issuing certificates or obligation, bonds, to fund the wastewater treatment plant overhaul.
    Water sales, Karstens said, are down from previous years.
    “With all the rain we've been getting last week, we backed off on water $50,000,” the finance director explained. “Usually, when it rains for a while, it keeps everybody interested in their yards and they keep watering. But, when in rains in August, that's not a good sign for water sales.”
    Karstens said the new budget will also call for a 2 percent increase in both water and sewer rates, but he cautioned work will need to be done to restructure the rates to allow for high-capacity industrial users of the city's sewer system.
    With the completion of the new City Hall building in the old Post Office and work on Davis and Connally streets, the city has essentially completed the downtown restoration work and attention will be focused on other areas of the city.
    City Manager Marc Maxwell said residents can expect more attention on dips, bumps and potholes in city streets in the coming year.
    The old city hall remodeling program to expand the police department into areas of the Municipal Building formerly occupied by administrative offices is expected to cost as much as $650,000.
    At the end of the remodel, the city's business center will occupy about 60 percent of the Municipal Building and the police department will use the remaining 40 percent for offices, emergency management center and a holding facility for suspects or prisoners.
    After receiving the proposed budget and explanations Tuesday evening, council members will take the next week to examine the spending plan and will meet for another workshop session next Tuesday for questions and further discussion on the proposed $28.223 million city budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

Supply Line

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Student and Young Adult Pastor Jonathan McGraw, Children's Pastor Jamie Young and Intern Emalee McMillan of Shannon Oaks Church consolidate school supplies Thursday morning that will be donated to CANHelp for their Pack the Bus School supplies drive Friday. The CANHelp donation drive will last from 7 a.m. through 5 p.m. at their facility on 613 Gilmer St.

Staff Photo Jon Lance

Ready for Football

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Kristi Shultz ( front left) selects her seats for the Sulphur Springs Wildcat football season Tuesday afternoon. Today, current season ticket holders will be able to upgrade their tickets. Thursday through Friday, season tickets will be available for the community to purchase from 8:45 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Staff Photo Jon Lance 

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