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Tax break possible for county if math checks

Profile image for By Bj Lewis
By Bj Lewis

A tax break for Denton County could be on the horizon.

On Tuesday, county commissioners received their first look at the proposed budget for the 2015 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. This is only the opening step in the annual budget process that includes department appeals and a handful of public meetings before the final vote is taken. But officials are encouraged by the possibility of a tax decrease, even the miniscule one that is proposed.

Donna Stewart, budget officer for the county, recommended a $238.3 million budget, an increase of $14.2 million over the current budget.

Early calculations have put the proposed tax rate at 28.3 cents per $100 in property valuation — about one-fifth of a penny less than the current tax rate of 28.49 cents per $100 valuation.

“Once again, Donna Stewart and her office have put us off to a very good start,” County Judge Mary Horn said. “We’ve seen quite a bit of growth in the county and the new value on the rolls is very helpful.

“There’s just a whole lot of things to keep in mind with the jail expansion and expansion of juvenile detention. Working in the necessary staff of both facilities gradually over the next two or three budget years helps tremendously.”

The jail and juvenile budget items are the chief expenditure changes for the upcoming fiscal year at more than $3.2 million. That figure includes new hires and operating expenses.

A number of full-time positions were recommended in the budget, including seven for the new 442nd District Court, one in the county jail, three in the sheriff’s office, a deputy constable in Precinct 5 and three in juvenile detention.

The county’s revenue is up in a handful of areas, including a $5 million increase from new property, just more than $1 million from vehicle registration and nearly $460,000 in fees from residents using the county clerk, tax assessor collector and records offices.

The certified tax rolls will arrive July 25, which can possibly impact the proposed numbers, but Stewart is hopeful nothing will change.

“We never know until the roll is certified, but it is the best estimate we could come up with at this point, but hopefully it will be really close,” she said.

Commissioners will conduct budget workshops this Tuesday, July 29 and Aug. 5, when department heads can appeal rejected budget requests. Public hearings are set for Aug. 19 and Aug. 26. The last public hearing and final vote by commissioners on the 2015 budget and tax rate is set for Sept. 2.

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