Gary Burns: Candidate says he is committed to county
By BY GARY BURNS
Oct. 25, 2012 at 5:25 a.m.
I would like to thank the folks in Precinct 3 for the privilege of serving as their commissioner for the last eight years. I have learned a lot, worked with a lot of great people, and have watched our county go through rough times and good times.
Victoria is so blessed! We are fortunate to have two superior hospital systems, along with highly skilled doctors and nurses. We have education facilities that are gearing up to provide the best education and training needed for our children and our workforce. Can you believe the economic upswing we are experiencing? Our children now have the opportunity to stay here and have a good career. They don't have to go to Austin or Dallas. We are actually becoming diversified. The major plant expansions, the commitment Caterpillar has made and the development of the Eagle Ford Shale have opened up new opportunities. The expansion at the Port, the growth of our existing businesses and the incoming support companies are all icing on the cake.
If it sounds like I am excited about our county, I am. This doesn't mean that we sat back and everything just happened. There was a lot of hard work and planning that made this possible. It took the effort of dedicated folks. People have to work to make things better, not sit back and complain and whine. This took positive, realistic individuals to see the potential and go for the brass ring. It took partners like VEDC, Chamber of Commerce, local businesses, local educators, dedicated individuals and yes, even elected officials. I think we are seeing the beginning of a major upswing.
Along with opportunities, we face serious challenges. How do we keep the cost to our taxpayers down and still provide superior service to meet local needs? We have kept our tax rate the same the last several years. The main concerns revolve around the rising appraisal values. The appraisal district is not under our control. However, they are mandated by the state to be sure their appraisals are true market values. Not their choice or ours. I'm a taxpayer, and if I write a check for one dollar more than I did last year, I'm not happy.
What do we do about increases in the county budget? We had to make drastic cuts in 2010 and 2011. We streamlined and made hard decisions. However, the 2012 and 2013 budgets have increased. We keep getting mandates from the state and federal governments to provide services that they don't pay for. Our costs in our court system are up and indigent costs are ever increasing. Our labor and material costs go up. I'm not making excuses. These are just facts that we deal with.
So what do we do? We don't want to raise taxes. Property taxes account for less than half of our budgeted revenue. I would prefer to raise the sales tax and decrease property taxes. The state says we can't do that. So - we try and control what costs we can. We work more efficiently and smarter. We get grants and use them to offset millions of dollars of costs in various projects. We partner with other agencies and private business, if possible. We try and save money when and how we purchase equipment. We have reorganized various departments. Example: Saxet Lake. It has been removed from the general fund budget into Precinct 3's budget. We figure how to work more efficiently.
Most folks think county commissioners crawl off a maintainer and ride around. Times have changed. Sure, your commissioner should have knowledge of roads and equipment. Because of a great foreman and crew, Precinct 3 is one of the cleanest and best maintained areas around. He should also be plugged into the community and serve his constituents (ex. serve on boards - Gulf Bend, Challenged Athletes, DeGoLa Resource, Conservation, and Development, Golden Crescent Regional Planning, VBEC, etc.). He should represent Victoria. He should be a fellow taxpayer so he knows and feels the results of any action taken. I think he should invest in our community, have business experience and be conservative with tax dollars. It is easy to talk about being conservative. Ask any who work with me about how I feel about spending money.
A commissioner should be involved in economic development, work closely with law enforcement and fire departments and protect our natural resources. He must be accessible and accountable. He must be willing to work and plan for the future of Victoria - a full-time commitment!
I think I have shown my commitment and that I meet the above requirements. I hope I have proven myself. If you agree, I ask for your vote in the Republican primary. Thank you very much.
Gary Burns is the incumbent and Republican candidate for Victoria County Commissioner Precinct 3. Voters may contact him with questions or comments at 361-220-2284.