Ellis County budget, tax rate discussed

Commissioners to make final approvals for FY 2021-2022 on Aug. 9

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
The Ellis County Historic Courthouse.

Ellis County Commissioners drew closer to completion of the county’s fiscal year 2022 budget with lengthy discussion of the particulars during Tuesday’s bi-weekly meeting at the Ellis County Historic Courthouse.

 In a twist, a proposed biennial budget that includes the 2022-2023 fiscal year was discussed.  Commissioners, following an executive session, gave preliminary approval to the 2-year budget, but the action is not final.

Commissioners took a plunge into the total numbers, which County Judge Todd Little said was able to be reduced by just over $2 million in personnel costs and $2.9 million in equipment. Little broke down the numbers by department and pointed out areas where savings were able to be realized.

The court also discussed tax rates for the new fiscal year. Little said setting the rate at the maximum amount that does not require voter approval will result in $4.6 million in additional revenue but falls short of the budget request by about $300,000. However, Little said additional money will be available to the county through the federal American Recovery Plan that would cover the shortfall.

The court also reviewed a list of salary increases for elected officials and department heads for fiscal year 2021-2022. Little said Ellis County’s salaries are competitive with other counties of similar population. The county did not increase salaries last year because of uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

Final action on the budget is set for the court’s Aug. 9 meeting.

Other items

• Commissioners heard a presentation from Edith Marvin of the North Central Texas Council of Governments on a regional flood management task force for the Trinity River basin.

• The court approved a 2-year interlocal agreement with the North Central Texas Emergency Communications District.

• A refund of capital credits from utilities was accepted from the Texas Comptroller’s Office. County auditor Janet Martin said these funds are limited to certain programs by state law, such as children’s advocacy programs.

• A steering committee was appointed to assist the Kitchell/HOK team with the county’s facility needs assessment and long-range planning projects. Members of the committee are Judge Little, Precinct 3 Commissioner Paul Perry, Sheriff Brad Norman, county engineering director Ted Kantor, county development director Alberto Mares and county purchasing agent E.J. Harbin, along with three private citizens.

• Consent agenda approvals included previous meeting minutes, acceptance of various reports, interlocal agreements with the cities of Red Oak, Oak Leaf and Glenn Heights for roadwork, and several budgetary line-item transfers.

• Development items included approvals of a plat of a 3.111-acre property on the south side of Gibson Road in the extraterritorial jurisdiction of Waxahachie, a replat of 7.442 acres into two lots on the east side of Grande Casa Road in Maypearl’s ETJ, and a replat of 10.03 acres on the east side of FM 780 in the ETJ of Ferris.

• The court approved a $2,697 agreement with National CineMedia, LLC to produce a recruitment advertisement for the Sheriff’s Office to be shown at ShowBiz Waxahachie.

• A number of Sheriff’s Office items of equipment were declared surplus and will be disposed of, including damaged office chairs, rusted metal file cabinets, a damaged wooden office desk and damaged modular office furniture.

• Commissioners renewed an annual agreement with Wellpath to provide inmate medical services. The  $1.54 million amount is a 3-percent increase over the previous year.

• An amended tax abatement agreement with Cornerstone Development Partners LLC was approved. The agreement adds Cornerstone to an existing agreement in Midlothian’s RailPort Business Park regarding the facility that will be used by SunOpta Grains and Foods Inc.

• Two county-owned properties in Ennis were transferred to Habitat for Humanity for construction of homes.

• The court approved a pair of interlocal agreements with the city of Midlothian for tax assessment collection services for the Redden Farms Public Improvement District.

• Craig Pelletier was introduced and approved as the county’s Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services coordinator.

• The court tabled the beginning and end of pay periods for county employees effective with the pay period beginning Sept. 19, after Commissioner Perry objected to using employees’ comp time to cover a short paycheck when the adjustment would go into effect. Commissioners will study the numbers and will consider funding the coverage at their Aug. 9 meeting. The date of pay will not change.

 • Commissioners accepted the donation of two sewing machines to the county for teaching sewing to students at the Ellis County Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program.