No county tax hike proposed

While a property tax hike has not been proposed, Hays County’s top elected official warned that residents could still be paying higher taxes due to rising appraisal values.

Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra issued that caution July 30 during the first draft of the county’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 budget, which currently hovers at approximately $273 million.

The budget doesn’t currently call for a property tax rate increase; his plan invests money into pay raises for county staff and law enforcement officials. Increasing property values could mean more funds collected by the county and higher taxes paid by residents, thus allowing Becerra’s proposed budget to be proposed without raising the actual tax rate on residents.

Becerra said he would like to decrease taxes as was done in FY 2019, but chose not to propose a decrease in favor of staff pay increases, water safety projects and heavy spending on the remainder of the jail expansion.

County leaders saw the budget for the first time during the meeting and may propose changes to spending and taxes over the next several weeks. 

According to county officials, the proposed budget is less than what was passed in FY 2019 and 2018.

Last year’s budget was approximately $315 million, a decrease of more than $57 million from 2018, according to the county’s report.

Major expenditures in the proposed budget include $718,000 for expansion of the flood warning system that was completed this summer.

Becerra also earmarked $872,000 for the new jail and public safety building’s equipment, In addition, $3 million for salaries for more jail employees and $260,000 for salary increases for law enforcement personnel was added, which comes after a voter-approved Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Further spending on staff includes $905,000 for a two percent cost-of-living increase and a one percent merit pool for employees making less than $100,000 annually.

Taxes and pay raises will likely be the center of discussion moving forward. County departments submitted a total of $22,700,000 in needs and expenditures, but Becerra reduced the requests to approximately $7,400,000, according to Communications Manager Laureen Chernow.

Commissioners will hold workshops on Aug. 13 and Aug. 20 before finalizing the budget in late August or early September.

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