Denton County commissioners approved the 2014 fiscal year budget and tax rate Tuesday.
Following one last public hearing, which saw no one from the public show up, commissioners unanimously voted for the $223 million budget.
“We came up with a really good, frugal budget that handles all the needs mandated and otherwise,” County Judge Mary Horn said.
Tuesday’s presentation was the third such on the budget following another 10 a.m. hearing and a 7 p.m. hearing that saw only one person from the public attend. While the woman commented from her seat about not wanting to have her taxes raised, she did not take the microphone to formally address commissioners.
“I am always glad to see the public show up,” Horn said. “If they want to express themselves, I am willing to listen and hopefully address concerns and give a better understanding of why we came up with the budget we did.”
Horn would have liked more interaction with or questions from the public during the budget period. She noted a recent exchange with a county resident who had e-mailed her office with questions about one of the large emergency services vehicles he had seen out and about in the county, commenting on the cost to taxpayers.
Horn said she answered his questions about the vehicle and its use and benefit to the county and residents.
Days later, the man e-mailed again to express his support for the county and appreciation for his questions being answered.
“I’m glad when they ask questions because they need them answered,” Horn said.
The $223 million budget is a $12.5 million increase over last year.
The proposed tax rate is $0.289010 per $100 valuation, an increase from the current rate of $0.282867.
Officials have pointed out that it is less than one quarter of a cent increase. Reasons for the increase include the cost of the expansion of the jail and juvenile facilities. Fifty new positions are required for the jail alone.
Horn said every bit of the increase will go toward paying the debt of voter-approved projects. The budget also includes a 4 percent pay increase for all county employees who pass their annual evaluations.
Commissioner Hugh Coleman said he and fellow court members did a good job with the budget, seeing that they had to staff the new juvenile facility and the adult detention facility.
“It’s always a hard job to decide what the county’s priorities are, but I think investing in staff and facilities is the best way to go,” he said. “Our investment in the new jail complex and the new juvenile facility will pay off in years to come. Unfortunately, in order to pay for these items, there will be a small tax increase. But that’s always hard to avoid in a rapidly growing county such as Denton.”
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.