Ellis County budget takes shape in discussion

Commissioners kick around numbers in advance of September finalization

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
The Ellis County Historic Courthouse.

As expected. the topic of the 2021-2022 proposed county budget took up most of Ellis County Commissioners’ attention during Tuesday’s regular court meeting.

Ellis County is rapidly growing, and along with that is the need for county services. County auditor Janet Martin said during the budget workshop process, county departments submitted requests for 21 new employees.

County Judge Todd Little said funds received through the American Recovery Plan are helping to reduce the need for more tax revenues. However, Little noted that this money will only be available or another two to three years.

The total “no new revenue” property tax rate for the new fiscal year is 33.9338 cents per $100 valuation, a reduction of just over a penny from the current fiscal year. Martin said the reason for the drop was an almost $1 billion increase in property values in the county over the past year.

However, Martin said, if the county raised the property tax rate to the limit that doesn’t require voter approval, the county would stand to gain an additional $1.8 million in revenue.

Final action on the budget and tax rate is scheduled to be taken at the Sept. 14 commissioners’ meeting.

A 5-percent cost-of-living increase was proposed for all employees after increases were eliminated last year because of COVID-19 uncertainties.

Little said salaries of elected officials are a separate matter that will be up for consideration during the court’s Aug. 24 meeting. Precinct 3 Commissioner Paul Perry vehemently argued that elected officials should not take a bigger percentage increase in pay than county workers.

Also up for discussion was the status of the county’s court system. Perry — a past and current critic of accepting federal money because of possible strings attached — advocated using temporary ARP funds for public safety to help clear a backlog of more than a year in court cases. “Ordinarily I wouldn’t, but these are extraordinary times,” Perry said.

More commissioners’ meetings are scheduled for the next two months to address other business, such as elections and line-item transfers. Little said these meetings will create an opportunity for more budget discussions to be placed on the agenda.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Lane Grayson was absent.

Other items

• The approved consent agenda consisted of previous meeting minutes, acceptance of various reports, cancellation of a $42,000 work order and refund with the city of Alma, interlocal agreements with the city of Milford and Midlothian Municipal Management District No. 2, permission for former Deputy Scott Lindsey to keep his badges as future retirement mementos, and four budgetary line-item transfers.

 • One item was pulled from the consent agenda and separately approved. Commissioners OK’d the release of a performance bond related to Sunset Meadows subdivision (Waxahachie Two Development, LLC), contingent upon no new construction until reissuance.

• Three plats were approved: a 6.265-acre property on the southwest corner of Bethel Road Drive and Dunaway Road in rural Waxahachie; a 16.44-acre tract on the northeast corner of the intersection of Novy Road and Highway 34, in the extraterritorial jurisdiction of Ennis; and a 10.10-acre property on the south side of Hunsucker Road, northeast of the intersection of Sutton Road and Hunsucker Road in the ETJ of Red Oak.

• The court executed an agreement with LexisNexis for the Ellis County Law Library using a DIR Cooperative Contract for a 3-year period beginning Oct. 1.

• The purchase of a 2021 Freightliner Water Truck with a 4,000-gallon Ledwell tank for Commissioner Precinct 3 from Houston Freightliner in the amount of $127,500 was approved using an HGACBuy contract.

• Several capital items were purchased with funds from the American Recovery Plan Act. All purchases will be approved through the Purchasing Department to ensure compliance with Federal and State purchasing laws.

• A special election was called for Tuesday, Nov. 2 to adopt or reject eight proposed constitutional amendments as submitted by the 87th Legislature. The early voting schedule was also approved.

• Criteria for use in the redistricting 2021 process for the county was approved. The U.S. Census Bureau was scheduled later in the week to release belated 2020 data to be used in the redistricting process. Additionally, commissioners adopted guidelines for persons submitting specific redistricting proposals and providing comments.