County puts tax rate and budget to bed

At their final regular meeting of the 2021-22 fiscal year on Tuesday, the Ellis County Court of Commissioners addressed a long list of agenda items, not the least of which was the county budget and the tax rate for the new fiscal year which begins one week from Saturday.

The court first gave final approval to the 2022-23 budget, then set the property tax rate at 29.5867 cents per $100 of taxable assessment, both in unanimous roll-call votes. The tax rate includes 25.98 cents for maintenance and operations, 1.3201 cents for interest and depreciation, and 2.2866 cents for the Farm-to-Market Road fund.

The budget was changed at the request of Sheriff Brad Norman to transfer $500,000 of unused funds from his department’s pay line to the vehicle fund.

The budget includes a new associate judge position to oversee the Veterans Treatment Court, which County Judge Todd Little said will be a temporary position under the supervision of the 378th District Court. Few said the new judge will serve as a “bridge” when the county eventually qualifies for a fourth district court thanks to population growth.

Precinct 3 commissioner Paul Perry initially expressed reservations about creating “a new government job that won’t go away”, but eventually voted in favor of the budget.

Budget updates that were discussed at previous meetings included an 8% cost of living adjustment (COLA) for county salaries, an additional COLA for retirees, and the elimination of grant coordinator positions and of a civil lawyer.

The tax rate incorporates the “no new income” rate for maintenance and operation and the FM fund. The interest and amortization rate, which is used to pay off bond debt, is exempt from the calculation of no new income under current state law. Homeowners will also receive an increased $40,000 homestead exemption that was approved by voters in a statewide referendum in May.

County Auditor Janet Martin said the new tax rate will provide about $4.93 million in additional revenue over the previous budget, almost all of which comes from value added last year.

Little said the court would convene a special meeting for Tuesday afternoon at 2 p.m. to resolve any potential issues before the end of the fiscal year.

All members of the court were present.

Other items

• The court approved the ability for county employees to choose between the Texas Association of Counties risk management pool or the Trident TX Association of Political Subdivisions—Gibbs Hallmark & ​​Company for comprehensive insurance.

• Approved agenda included minutes of previous meetings; acceptance of various reports; and a slew of line item transfers as the county closed the books for the 2021-22 fiscal year.

• A final flat has been approved for a 58,521 acre property on the south side of Marion Road in the offshore jurisdiction of Maypearl; and a 6.79 acre property on the south side of Forreston Road.

• Plats was OK for a 106,687 acre parcel on the north side of Broadhead Road in the Waxahachie YSS; a 2,241 acre parcel on the west side of Bud Run Road; a property of 4,821 acres on the south side of Hight Road and a plot of 2,493 acres on the north side of Greathouse Road.

• A bid for comprehensive inmate medical services was awarded to Wellpath, LLC for a three-year term for a total amount of just over $7.5 million.

• The court approved the purchase of proprietary hardware and software from NEMO-Q for an initial amount of $48,180 after voting to exempt the company from bidding requirements due to sole-source status.

• A potential disaster debris removal tender for the county was approved in conjunction with the towns of Waxahachie and Red Oak.

• An interlocal agreement with the town of Red Oak was concluded for the construction of the Ellis County tax office in that town for the amount of $83,419.

• A tax refund of $650,116 for levies accrued between 2013 and 2018 was approved for Holcim (US) Inc. for its Midlothian plant.

• The court approved Lisa Heine as the Ellis County representative for the Lakes Regional Community Center Board of Directors.

• Commissioners continued the county’s contract with Hope Health for indigent care services.

• Following an executive session, the Commissioners took no public action.

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