No change expected in county tax rate
But higher property values may increase revenue by $250,000

Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

July 21, 2004 -- An increase in property values in Hopkins County could mean an additional quarter of a million dollars in tax revenues for the county and allow county commissioners to plan next year's budget using the current tax rate, according to Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap.

"Currently, our tax rate is 54.25 [cents] per $100 property valuation. We haven't gotten our figures from the tax appraisal office to work up our revenue from property taxes, but we know there is a 5 percent increase," Millsap said. "We are anticipating we are going to remain at that same rate and not raise that tax rate."

The county's budget for the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, called for revenues and expenditures of approximately $11 million, and commissioners court members say assistance from elected officials helped to stay within tight budget constraints. County commissioners are asking those office holders for the same kind of commitment for the upcoming fiscal year.

"What we've asked all the department heads to do is to maintain the same level of spending they did last year," Judge Millsap said.

Another revenue factor in the upcoming budget is an increase in the collection of fines and fees, as well as a higher than anticipated collection rate of 95 percent on property taxes.

Commissioners are studying a moderate cost of living pay increase for county employees, and a major concern for the budget planners is health insurance coverage. A Wednesday workshop included meetings with advisors to discuss the costs.

"We know it's going to be up some," Millsap said. "We want to make sure we can get the right amount for our employees, and if it is too high, we are going to meet with our consultants and may even go out for bids on [insurance]."

Members of the commissioners court gave credit to the county and district clerk's offices and to the justices of the peace offices for their collection of fines owed to the county.

"Our sheriff's department and our constables have a done a good job in going out and seeking these people, arresting them and bringing them in through the warrants system," the judge said. "Overall, it's been a pretty good year for county government, and our employees have done an outstanding job."

Commissioners are also anticipating some major expenses coming up in the next year, including major repairs needed at the courthouse annex and the installation of new cable to connect the main courthouse with the annex building. Both projects are already in the plans for the coming year.

Major projects that may be brought to the table during the budget workshops include the possible construction of additional stalls at the Civic Center arena, but Millsap said commissioners had received no information from the Civic Center board of directors.

"We know they are making plans to do this, but commissioners are waiting to have a plan submitted to the [commissioners] court for consideration," the judge said.

Budget workshops for county commissioners are expected to continue for several weeks before a plan is ready to be considered for adoption in September for the next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1.

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