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County delivers sound budget

Denton County commissioners gave unanimous approval Tuesday to a $210.5 million budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year, and we think most taxpayers will approve of the result in spite of a slight bump in the tax rate.

No one wants to see taxes go up, but officials did a good job of holding the line against rising costs and delivered a sound financial plan.

Commissioners approved a property tax rate of 28.2867 cents per $100 in property valuation, up from this fiscal year’s rate of 27.7357 cents per $100 property valuation. The 2012-13 tax rate means that the owner of a $100,000 property would pay a county tax bill of $282.87, up $5.51 from the previous year.

According to Donna Stewart, the county budget officer, the budget will raise $5,703,549 more in total property taxes than last year’s budget. Of that amount, a little more than $3 million will come from tax revenue on new property added to the tax rolls.

“The half-cent increase is predominantly for road and bridge projects that were voter approved,” County Judge Mary Horn said. “We still have the bids coming in at lower than anticipated cost at 20-25 percent. It’s a good time to invest those taxpayer dollars.”

The budget added money for a new position in technology services and $71,000 in contract labor money. It also allowed for the reclassification of several positions.

The budget also includes a 2.5 percent pay raise for all eligible employees hired before April 1 who had successful evaluations.

The downside for employees expecting a raise was an increase in insurance costs for full-time employees.

Commissioners voted on the insurance premium plan for the upcoming fiscal year and opted for a plan that would see the cost to full-time employees increase by about 5 percent for family coverage on the exclusive provider organization and preferred provider organization insurance choices. The county will pay the same percentage of the premium as before.

Commissioner Hugh Coleman said that a little more advance discussion on insurance premiums would be advisable.

“A point I was trying to make is we have a lot of consternation regarding giving our employees raises,” he said. “They hear they will get a raise, but based on the fact we follow it up with a health insurance raise, it results in hurt feelings on either side.”

We agree, but considering the beating that many municipalities and corporations — not to mention smaller businesses — are taking on health insurance costs, the increase passed on to county employees isn’t that bad.

Like we said, no one wants to pay more in taxes or health care costs, but we think county commissioners did a good job under the circumstances.