WAXAHACHIE — Ellis County Residents will see a two-cent tax cut in their county property taxes starting Oct. 1.
Commissioners unanimously approved the new rate of $0.393221 at its Tuesday meeting.
“I am excited that we are able to do this. The county is in a very good position right now. I think that it is many years of conservative practices. Some dedicated efforts to holding the line as far as costs go,” Ellis County Judge Carol Bush said. “For a county our size to have a county tax rate of $0.393 is truly remarkable.”
Bush thanked the county employees who contribute in this effort each year.
Commissioners also approved the $63,565,533 budget for the next fiscal year. In the budget, the county is adding new staff members, upgrading computer software, upgrading voting equipment and providing additional funding for healthcare for inmates at the Wayne McCollum Detention Center.
The commissioners’ court also held a public hearing on a proposed increase in salaries, expenses and allowances for elected officials for the upcoming fiscal year.
Ellis County Pct. 2 Commissioner Lane Grayson addressed the court about the proposed increases stating that the county needs to have salaries that are competitive with private industry. This would help to attract skilled and talented people and keep current staff members. He added that, while the grievance committee addressed only one salary last year (Bush), it should have looked at others.
The salary grievance committee voted to increase the salary of Bush by $70,165.
“We never looked at or evaluated other positions. I don’t think that we are competitive because we have challenges filling open positions. Everything that was done (in the grievance process) is done to the letter of the law. I don’t have an issue with that,” Grayson said. “There are operators that I would like to bring into my barn but I can’t because I am locked in. I am not upset with our county. This is a good place to be. I think that we are at a spot to grow. I think that we can do a better job.”
Bush stated that the grievance process is a legal process defined by the election code that is available to anyone.
“What you're saying, commissioner, is that because I choose to grief my salary that was to the plight to the employees by addressing just one. The grievance set out by the government code is an appropriate way in which an elected is allowed to grieve their salary and ask for other considerations,” Bush said.
“No one at that point was going to address it any further. That is why the law is written like the law is written because it affords a person who can’t have a meaningful conversation and meaningful results because of the trapping of politics and personal feelings. It allows them a process that the legislature has said it is the way to address it.”
Bush stated she had worked hard in the last nine years to be a voice for the employees as well as a representative for the county at the state and regional levels.
“I am not going to apologize for a request that was not going to be addressed for the commissioners at that time,” Bush explained.
Ellis County Pct. 3 Commissioner Paul Perry asked Grayson if this was an issue why did he wait so late to talk about it.
“Why didn’t you put this on the agenda to talk about this,” Perry asked. “Sometimes you need to stick your neck out like you did today and put it on the agenda.”
Ellis County Pct. 4 Commissioner Kyle Butler told Grayson he understands his feelings on the issue but the county has limited resources. He noted budgeting has to be done accordingly to what resources are available.
Ellis County Pct. 1 Commissioner Randy Stinson advocated greater communication between everyone on issues facing the court.
“We can avoid things like this if we talk, sit down and open it up to the court and discuss this. Make educated decision rather than knee jerk decisions,” Stinson said. “I believe that as a body at this point we have come a long way as far as unity.”
The court passed the proposed increase in salaries, expenses and allowances for elected officials following the public hearing. Grayson voted in opposition.
In other business the court,
• Approved the purchase of a New Holland B95C from Landmark Equipment, a CW16 pneumatic compactor from Holt Cat and a compact track loader from John Deere.
• Approved awarding a bid for the transport of elections equipment, machines, booths and related items to and from various polling locations for county elections.
• Approved to release the county long range thoroughfare plan review and update.
• Approved signing a Xerox lease agreement for County Court at Law 2 for $199.93 per month.
• Took no action to enact a burn ban.
• Approved a resolution to convey struck off properties for public use to the City of Ennis. The property will be used to expand the city’s water treatment plant.
• Approved the holiday scheduled and added Columbus Day as an additional holiday for county employees.
• Took no action to adopt a payroll and commissioners court schedules for the 2017 – 2018 fiscal year.
• Approved a donation of stone to Waxahachie ISD for benches.
• Discussed Donelson Construction Company Sealant Technologies new product the chip lock.
• Accepted the donation of three JP patrol rifles totaling $4,617 from James and Sarena Moir of Moir Watershed Services.
• Approved authorize to Bush to sign a new contract with the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Ellis County to provide important services for residents of the county including training residents to serve as CASA volunteer advocates in child abuse cases. The contract is for $20,000 a year and is renewable for three years.
• Approved the authorization to refund $87,125.85 to Holcim for the 2012 tax year requisite interest amount.
• Approved authorizing approval for payment to the North Central Texas Council of Governments for the LIRAP program.
• Honored County Auditor Mike Navarro for his years of service to the county. The full story will be in an upcoming edition of the paper.