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Proposed county budget in the red

By DAVID TEWES
Aug. 3, 2010 at 3:03 a.m.


Budget problemsProposed county budget is just over $808,000 short of income.

The spending plan includes cuts for travel, supplies, maintenance and repairs.

The news was not good for the first budget session of the Victoria County Commissioners Court.

"We begin this year's budget process a little over $808,000 in the red," County Judge Don Pozzi said. "We have already stripped the budget considerably."

He said no department has gone unscathed for the 2011 proposed budget.

County Auditor Judy McAdams said she doesn't have the number for the total budget yet. But she said the proposed general fund budget is $30.8 million, compared to the current budget of $32.1 million.

"The final budget in front of you is really cut to the bare bones," Pozzi said. "There are cuts in each and every department."

The budget is built on the assumption that the property tax rate will be set at the effective rate of 40.02 cents for each $100 of taxable property. That is 0.16 cents above the current rate and subject to change.

The effective rate raises about the same amount of income as the previous year.

The rate the county could up the tax rate without being subject to a rollback election is 45.34 cents, McAdams said.

Pozzi said the proposed budget assumes no employee raises and that the court will consider staffing levels, despite cutting the budget $3.5 million last year.

"There will certainly be some cuts out of the general fund this year," he said. "We are about down to the bare basics as to what we need to continue providing services and to what the citizens expect that we need to provide."

The proposed budget also includes no funding for such non-county agencies as the Victoria Economic Development Corp., the Texas Zoo and the Texas Settlement Region.

Pozzi said the commissioners will have to decide what agencies will be added to the budget and at what level.

"This is not to say we're not going to fund the outside agencies," he said. "But until we review the budget, we do not know to what level we'll be able to fund them."

County Commissioner Kevin Janak called on the court to rescind funding for the remodeling of the building that houses the fixed based operator at the county airport.

"Is that really necessary?" he asked. But Commissioner Gary Burns said he'd like to know if spending the county funds would result in increased revenue.

The court approved accepting a $50,000 grant from the Texas Department of Transportation to give the fixed based operator building a facelift. It also agreed to chip in another $50,000 in county funds for the project.

The fixed based operator handles general aviation and military air traffic and is busier than the commercial terminal next door.

The chairman of the Victoria Regional Airport commission has said he thinks the funds would be a good investment.

"If we have businessmen come in looking to invest in Victoria, the first thing they see is our fixed based operator," said S.F. "Trey" Ruschhaupt, chairman of the airport commission. "I think it's very important for them to get a good impression of, not only the airport, but also Victoria."

Jason Milewski, whose company oversees the airport operation, has said planned improvements include changing the lighting, new flooring, and painting the hangar floor and walls. It also includes painting the exterior of the building and landscaping.

He said he believes that will increase traffic, which will in turn increase revenue. The operation is projected to make $1.8 million next year through fuel sales to military and civilian aircraft and through hangar rental.

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