Goliad residents express concern over proposed budget cuts, tax increase
Sept. 5, 2012 at 4:05 a.m.
Updated Sept. 6, 2012 at 4:06 a.m.
GOLIAD - With the possibility of losing $650,000 in revenue looming over Goliad County, the commissioners court held a public meeting Wednesday to address concerns.
County Judge David Bowman explained the $550,000 in proposed budget cuts after Coleto Creek Power, which generates about 40 percent of the tax revenue for the county and the school district, filed the suit in district court on Aug. 16 to lower its value by about $100 million.
The proposed cuts include a $50,000 to the sheriff's office, $43,500 to the county/district clerk personnel, and $157,375 in road and bridge budgets.
About 30 people attended the public hearing. Many people were concerned about the severity of the budget cuts and proposed tax increase.
"The $50,000 from the sheriff's office, if it's in equipment and supplies, what is that, bullets?" joked Jimmy Schulze, of Goliad.
But even as the joke brought laughter from the tense crowd, Schulze, a retired emergency responder, said his concerns were real.
"We are already stretched pretty thin when we have an accident or a fire and it concerns me that we are cutting our budget," he said.
Goliad County Sheriff Kirby Brumby said although the cuts would be difficult to operate under, he is grateful the county isn't looking at cutting his personnel.
County/District Clerk Mary Ellen Flores, however, is facing that possibility and pled to the commissioners court not to implement the proposed personnel cut in her office.
"Initially, when I took office in 2008, there were seven employees," she said to the court. "As some of them have left I did not replace them. I have five now and I don't see how my department could function with four full-time employees and one part-time employee."
The public meeting also addressed the proposed tax rate, which the court voted 4-1 to increase to 69.84 cents per $100 valuation on Aug. 27.
Before the Coleto Creek lawsuit, the court discussed adopting a tax rate of 64.84 cents per $100 valuation, down from the rate of 65.65 cents in 2011.
"I'm a small landowner and the evaluations have gone up considerably," said JoAnn Quillian, a Goliad County resident. "It is going to cost me, with the county and with the school taxes."
Pat Calhoun, a rancher in Goliad County, said he is concerned about the tax rate, too, but sees how hard the situation is.
"I understand why they set it high, because by law they can go down, but they can't go up," he said of the court. "It is an incremental increase to try to make up an unknown, which is the outcome of the Coleto Creek Power."
More than the tax rate, Calhoun said he is concerned that all of the funds are spent efficiently.
Another public hearing on the proposed tax increase is schedule for 11 a.m. Sept. 10. The court plans to vote on the budget and tax rate on Sept. 18.
"Unfortunately we aren't going to know the outcome of the power plant value by then," Bowman said. "We are still working with Coleto Creek Power to arrange a meeting, and we haven't been able to do that."