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County to keep tax rate level, eliminate 19 positions

By DAVID TEWES
Aug. 16, 2010 at 3:16 a.m.


Budget timelineSept. 7: Receive and discuss the effective and rollback tax rates and vote on the proposed tax rate.

Sept. 13: Conduct a public hearing on the 2011 budget proposal.

Sept. 20: Adopt the 2011 budget and tax rate.

Victoria County plans to eliminate 19 positions and cut pay for three other positions in 2011, but the commissioners court intends to keep the property tax rate level.

"It was obviously a bad year last year," County Judge Don Pozzi said Monday. "But this year was a tough, gut-wrenching year."

He said the commissioners court agreed the responsibility lies with trying to take care of the nearly 90,000 residents and the need to continue providing services to them.

The court plans to keep the tax rate at 39.86 cents for each $100 of taxable property value. That is below the effective tax rate for the second year in a row.

The effective rate raises about the same amount of income as the previous year, taking into account the new appraised values. Judy McAdams, the county auditor, said the effective tax rate for 2011 is 40.02 cents. Raising the tax rate to that level would increase the tax bill on a $100,000 house that didn't increase in value by $1.60 a year.

That would have increased the county's income about $76,000.

Pozzi said in general it will be up to the department heads and elected officials to decide which positions will be cut.

In addition to the cuts, two people are retiring and the positions will not be filled. Two other positions will face cuts in hourly wages and a third will be reduced from a full-time post to 20 hours per week.

Pozzi said this is the first workforce reduction the county has had to face since 2004.

"There is nothing ever easy about having to reduce positions," Pozzi said. "We don't look at this as eliminating positions."

He said that's because they will be among the first to be funded as the economy turns around.

The workforce reduction involves about one-third of the county's 39 departments. Pozzi said the commissioners court considered cuts in two-thirds of the departments.

The cuts are projected to save about $900,000. There are several factors involved in the reductions.

The judge said, for instance, three or four years ago, the county was getting $1 million in interest income, but that has dropped to $50,000 a year.

The sales tax income is down more than $1 million during that period, the property tax income has been stable and health insurance claims have increased.

Joyce Dean, director of administrative services, said the employees and elected officials will not get raises for the second year in a row.

The county last year reduced its match to their retirement fund from 2-to-1 to 1-to-1. It was increased this year to 1.5-to-1.

The mandatory employee contribution to the retirement plan was reduced from 7 to 5 percent. Pozzi said overall that will result in about 2-percent less coming out of the employees paychecks.

Health insurance will increase $50 to $150 per month for just the employee. An employee and one dependent will pay $357 a month, which is an increase of $100.

Pozzi said while changes are still possible before the budget is adopted next month, he doesn't anticipate major changes.

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