Comal County commissioners will spend the next few weeks reviewing Judge Sherman Krause’s recommended $110.9 million 2020 budget, which will likely include a 2-cent hike in property taxes.
“We’ve made a few corrections since the budget was recommended (Aug. 1) and will present those when the court considers adoption of the budget,” Krause said.
Krause said the changes haven’t significantly changed his $110,934,628 proposal, which exceeded departmental requests by $9.1 million but is only $2.1 million higher than the 2019 adopted budget of $108.8 million.
The budget has entries for the county’s general fund, road and bridge fund and a combination of other funds that address flood control, debt service and more — such as designating 8 percent of revenue for indigent health, projected to total nearly $5 million next year.
The county’s proposed 2019 combined tax rate is 37.7915 cents per $100 assessed property valuation, almost 2 cents higher than in 2018 (35.7921 cents). Krause said the rate would generate $69.2 million in revenue, with sales taxes generating another $13 million.
“What’s important to note is that counties are required to offset property taxes with what we estimate to get from sales taxes,” he said. “If we want to generate $100 million and know we’ll have $20 million in sales tax revenues, then we’d have to set a property tax rate that will generate $80 million.”
The 2019 effective tax rate is 32.0265 cents/$100 (33.7974 cents in 2018); with the rollback rate 38.6057 cents (37.5604 cents in 2018).
Krause said elected officials will not receive raises next year, but county employees will receive hikes of between 2% and 4% in the new salary formula.
“With us having to go up in the tax rate, which will generate the money needed to pay for the new pay scale and construction projects we have going on, I don’t think it’s appropriate to give ourselves raises,” he said. “The 2020 budget does not propose raises for elected officials.”
Krause said the only exceptions are for district judges, who are paid by the state, and county courts at-law justices, who are paid by the county but must now equal that of district court judges.
The proposal designates nearly $6.8 million for new positions and others reclassified as part of the new pay formula. It also includes $4.162 million for departmental vehicles and road and bridge equipment, and sets aside $3.5 million for contingencies.
“It allows us to pay for those things we don’t know about yet,” he said. “We have a very healthy fund balance and have some money for unforeseen circumstances. We can’t charge the taxpayer for budgeting for things we might need, which is why it isn’t part of calculating our tax rate for 2019.”
Because the county seeks a tax increase, commissioners published notices of public hearings for 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 29 and Tuesday, Sept. 3. Commissioners are scheduled to approve the budget Aug. 29 but have until Sept. 19 to approve the tax rate. Krause said commissioners could adopt a lower tax rate, but not a higher rate.
“If we approve it, it will be the largest tax increase we’ve adopted since I’ve been here,” said Kevin Webb who became Precinct 3 commissioner in 2013. “I believe everything requested by our officials and department heads deserves consideration. And taking care of our employees, adding law enforcement and infrastructure are all things we need.”
Added Precinct 4 Commissioner Jen Crownover: “If we adopt it, we will still be in the bottom 20 to 25 percent of tax rates set by all of the counties in Texas.
“We are extremely frugal and take stewardship of taxpayer money very seriously. We need realize that there are some things — like taking care of our people — that are also important and has been a big priority this year.”