Goliad County approves budget cuts, tax increase

Sept. 18, 2012 at 4:18 a.m.

In a divided vote, Goliad County commissioners approved extensive budget cuts Tuesday and a higher tax rate, with the possibility of losing $650,000 in revenue hanging over the county.

Coleto Creek Power, which generates about 40 percent of the tax revenue for the county and the school district, filed suit in district court on Aug. 16 to lower their assessed value by about $100 million.

Though the original proposed budget included $550,000 in cuts to address the potential loss, the commissioners voted down three cost-saving measures on Sept. 10, adding about $60,000 to the budget.

They voted against cutting supplemental insurance, $40,000; a personnel reduction in the district/county clerk's office, $15,000-20,000; and moving from a $10,000 travel stipend for commissioners to documenting and getting reimbursed for mileage.

John Caldwell, of Goliad, was not pleased with the decision to keep the travel stipend.

"When people can vote their own pay raises, the temptation is often too great to resist ... I believe a burden is being placed on the citizens of Goliad County, with a raised tax rate and property values increasing, which is a double whammy," he told the commissioners.

Ted Long, commissioner for Precinct 4, replied that commissioners have already taken a $900 a year pay cut.

"How much do you expect me to give?" He asked in the meeting. "The easiest thing in the world is for commissioners to cut their own budgets and their own salaries; that is how things got as fouled up as they were."

The budget was approved 3-2, with Long and Jim Kreneck, Precinct 3 commissioner, voting against.

The commissioners also voted to increase the proposed tax rate to 69.84 cents per $100 of assessed value, again in a 3-2 vote with Kreneck and Long opposing.

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.

In the annual Appraisal District appraisal notices, the plant was originally valued at $355.3 million, Goliad County Chief Appraiser Pat Brennan said. The appraisal work was conducted by Pritchard & Abbott Inc., a Fort Worth valuation and consultant company.

After the power company contested the county's valuation, the Appraisal Review Board lowered the value of the plant $26.7 million to $328.6 million on June 20.

The first meeting between Goliad County and Coleto Creek Power will be Sept. 26, to try to negotiate the value.



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