A significant accounting mistake caused the Ellis County Commissioners to adopt a revised budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Commissioners also certified a petition for a special election to stop forced annexation by municipalities.
Initially, the commissioners believed the county had $2.9 million in additional revenue over last year in which to build the budget around for the upcoming fiscal year. However, after review by an independent accounting firm, the additional revenue totaled just $1.2 million.
Ellis County Judge Carol Bush explained the proposed budget was filed Aug. 31 to give the public and commissioners time to review.
"It was discovered working with an outside CPA there was not an accounting of the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone payments," Bush said. "I was able to reduce our expenditures and make the budget work with the effective tax rate."
Bush stated county auditor Miykael Reeve did not reflect the $1.7 million in funds was distributed to Waxahachie and Midlothian's TIRZ in the final amount available to commissioners.
The oversight caused the budget to be scaled back to make it balanced to meet the Sept. 30 deadline. The more than $71-million break-even budget for the 2018-19 fiscal years goes into effect Oct. 1. The tax rate of $0.37 per $100 valuation was approved as well.
"We decreased the discretionary percentage that has gone to merit raises, but we were still able to give employees a three-percent cost-of-living adjustment, " Bush said. "A couple of positions that had not been filled for some time, we utilized those funds. A couple of things we were able to fund from this current year's budgets."
Assistant District Attorney Vance Hinds advised the court that the Sept. 30 deadline might pose some challenges to meet all of the legal requirements for public hearings for the budget and tax rate.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Paul Perry stated, in the future, the transaction needs to be clearly shown when the budget is presented and is confident in what was presented in court.
"I still think that we are on the right track. It is still $1.2 million over last year," Perry said. "It has more than what we would be able to do otherwise."
Precinct 1 Commissioner Randy Stinson stated he is pleased that the county is balancing the budget without having to pull from other funds.
Fellow commissioners Kyle Butler, Precinct 4, and Layne Grayson, Precinct 3, shared Stinson's feelings despite the difficulties it is still positive the budget remains balanced going into the new year.
ANNEXATION VOTE CALLED
Volunteers over the last 180 days collected more than 13,000 signatures to place the item on the May 2019 ballot. Because of that, commissioners certified a petition for a special election to stop forced annexation by municipalities.
Petition co-author Luis Ponder addressed the court and encouraged them to let residents have the choice on who governs their property.
"When we bought or built within the county jurisdiction we bought knowing that the county has certain restrictions and requirements on us as property owners," Ponder said. "Folks in the city have a much more set of restrictive rules. Those who bought outside the city choose not to be associated with those rules, restrictions, and taxes."
The motion to certify the petition was made first by Precinct 2 Commissioner Lane Grayson and seconded by Precinct 3 Commissioner Paul Perry. Commissioners unanimously approved the petition.