Earlier this week I had a conversation with Paul Perry, Ellis County Commissioner of Precinct 3. Apparently, there’s a lot of confusion in the community over the county proposed budget for the coming fiscal year.
Even though it has been widely reported the county is keeping the same tax rate as last year, Perry said he has inundated with calls from constituents thinking the county is raising taxes.
“We’re not raising taxes,” he stress. “Anything you can do to help clarify the situation would be greatly appreciated.”
While we accurately reported the county’s proposed tax rate for the coming year is unchanged, I told him I think part of the confusion stems from the state’s transparency law passed by the legislature a few years ago. The law requires taxing entities to notify residents if there is an increase in the tax rate. Even if the tax rate remains the same, the law also requires notification if the amount of revenue to be generated is greater than the previous year.
In this case, the proposed county tax rate is unchanged — meaning if your property did not increase in assessed value from the previous year, your county tax bill for next year will be exactly the same as it was this year.
However, this has been a pretty good year for Ellis County. Lots of new homes have been built. More businesses and industries have located in Ellis County and there’s been quite a bit of expansion. And in some cases, property values have started to increase. In short, the value of taxable property in Ellis County has increased during the past year, meaning that while the county is holding the line on the tax rate (the amount assessed per $100 value), the taxable property in the county has risen in value.
In last week’s Tuesday edition, we published a column by Ellis County Judge Carol Bush explaining the county’s needs in the upcoming budget cycle. Due mostly to austerity measures during the recession, the county has reduced staffing in multiple departments, delayed replacing equipment and held off on adding staff in other departments where there are a critical staffing needs due to growth.
Additionally, the county will be adding a new district court in 2014. While the county anticipated the need for a future court when constructing the new administration and justice building, that space (in the building) wasn’t finished out in order to save taxpayer dollars. With the new court scheduled to open next September, the county will have to fund finishing out that portion of the justice center.
Bush said the county would be able to do all of that without the need for a tax increase in the new budget.
Bottom line, if your property didn’t increase in value, your county taxes won’t change. No, the county isn’t raising taxes, however, it is proposing to generate more revenue than last year due to economic development. The county is planning to use that revenue to short up areas that have been neglected during the recession — and cover construction of the new court on the vacant floor of the administration and justice building.
The Ellis County Commissioners Court will hold the final public hearing on the proposed budget (and vote on its adoption) at 3 p.m. Monday at the Ellis County Courthouse.
Hopefully this helps clear up some of the confusion.
Neal White is the Editor of Waxahachie Newspapers Inc. Contact Neal at firstname.lastname@example.org or 469-517-1457. Follow Neal on Facebook at Neal White – Waxahachie Newspapers Inc., or on Twitter at wni_nwhite.