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Denton County gets updated figures

Profile image for By Bj Lewis / Staff Writer
By Bj Lewis / Staff Writer

Tax rate still expected to rise, but at lesser amount than projected

The 2013 certified property appraisal values were presented to Denton County commissioners Tuesday, leading to some positive news regarding the 2014 tax rate.

The appraised values for 2013 were higher than the budget office had projected. So while the tax rate is still expected to rise in 2014, it will be a lesser amount than Budget Officer Donna Stewart had presented to the court a few weeks ago.

County Judge Mary Horn said the county would propose a tax increase of a quarter-cent per $100 valuation, rather than a half-cent.

“Donna and James Wells always do a really good job of using conservative numbers to start with so there aren’t any surprises when we come to the process,” Horn said.

According to Michelle French, the tax assessor/collector, the county’s appraised value grew nearly $3 billion over the last year.

Stewart’s office previously recommended a $223 million budget and a proposed tax rate of $0.289010 per $100 valuation, an increase over the current rate of $0.282867.

With the appraised values now known, Stewart and her office are recommending a tax rate of $0.285135.

Horn said the improved financial outlook may add to the county’s ability to grant budget appeals to departments seeking to get what was not in the recommended budget.

But her support for any appeal either stands or falls on its own merit, rather than possible surplus to pay for it.

“That’s what the whole process is about, checking out the justification for why they are making the appeal,” Horn said.

Tuesday was the second round of discussion of appeals for a handful of county departments. The final budget workshop is set for next week.

Horn said one of those projects she questioned was Precinct 4 Constable Tim Burch’s appeal seeking new body armor for his deputies.

“I certainly don’t have a problem with our law enforcement requesting body armor, but I think the constable is mistaken in thinking the body armor needs to be replaced every three years when the manufacturer gives it a five-year lifespan,” Horn said. “[We’re] always glad to hear from people because there is just so much to go through, sometimes something might get missed and this is an opportunity to bring things to our attention and that is fine. We may or may not agree, but I will be glad to hear from them.”

Following the presentation from French and Stewart at the morning meeting, Commissioner Hugh Coleman said it was good to hear the updated numbers, which show Denton County is growing.

“That will allow for us to provide the much-needed services that we are required to provide, particularly in the area of adult detention and juvenile probation,” Coleman said. “It’s always better to be ahead of the curve and be prepared for the oncoming growth than not having the capacity.”

Coleman said the lower tax rate should help ease the burden on homeowners and taxpayers.

“It’s now up to us to make good decisions regarding the county budget,” he said.

BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.