County agrees on tentative budget

Marina Riker By Marina Riker

Aug. 4, 2017 at 7:42 p.m.
Updated Aug. 5, 2017 at 6 a.m.

   advocate file photos for The Victoria Advocate

Victoria County commissioners have decided to move forward with a proposed budget for 2018, marking the end of three long days of meetings.

Friday, commissioners discussed how the county would operate in 2018 despite a $900,000 shortfall in sales tax revenue.

During the past few days, county officials have gone line by line through a proposed $58 million budget that outlines exactly how taxpayers' money is spent on services ranging from law enforcement to road projects. The general fund makes up about $36 million to fund daily operations.

Even with the unexpected dip in sales tax revenue, the county isn't planning to increase taxes, said County Judge Ben Zeller. For the most part, the funding gap was filled by department heads such as the district attorney deciding to reduce spending.

Zeller said District Attorney Steve Tyler planned to use money from civil asset forfeiture funds, which are assets seized during criminal investigations, to help fund the office's operating expenses.

Tyler said he also planned to cut two unfilled positions, which will in part help reduce spending by more than $100,000.

"You're getting a lot of bang for the buck," said Tyler. "It is a very efficient office."

The county was also able to scrape up more money by boosting revenue at Victoria's juvenile detention center. About a year ago, the county did an in-depth review of the facility, which led to a decision to increase fees charged for housing youth who come to the facility from other counties, said Zeller.

"The higher revenues at the juvenile detention center are attributed to a large population and higher fees for out-of-town kids," said Zeller.

While Victoria County employees won't see automatic raises next year, their benefits will remain the same, Zeller said. Also, employees and their families will see more perks from health insurance plans.

Premiums won't increase for the seventh consecutive year, but patients will be able to use telemedicine, Zeller said. That means county employees will be able to call a doctor at any time of day for a health consultation or prescription, he said.

"This is a huge deal and really an anomaly looking at both public- and private-sector employees," said Zeller.

Now that commissioners have finished the first round of major budget meetings, the public will have the opportunity to give feedback on the proposal. If all goes according to plan, commissioners will officially approve the budget in September, and it will go into effect in October.

"It was quite a feat, but it turned out well," Zeller said.



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