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Hearing on Gregg County tax rate draws one comment

By Glenn Evans
Aug. 20, 2012 at 10 p.m.


A property owner chastised Gregg County commissioners Monday during a public hearing for a tax rate that is dropping but still nets additional revenue.

"Anyway you slice it, I see the county raising taxes," Peter Sacoccio told the court during its second public hearing on a 26¼-cent tax rate.

The rate itself is a quarter cent smaller than this year's rate, but a 3 percent overall increase in property values translates to $482,000 more in property tax revenue.

"I've got a name for that," Sacoccio said. "It's called taxation through valuation. I'm happy with reducing it. But, given the status of our county and the conditions we're in, I think we could do a little more."

County Judge Bill Stoudt later said $265,000 of the increase in property taxes is from new homes.

"Three-quarters of the new revenue is new construction and expansion construction on people's property," he said.

He also noted the county's rate continues to be among the lowest in Texas, this year's rate the seventh-lowest statewide and the lowest for counties of 200,000 or fewer people.

It fuels a $59.9 million budget that takes in more than it spends, invests $12 million in highway and road projects and has no debt.

Monday's was the second public hearing on the tax rate. The court is scheduled to set the rate and OK the budget at 10 a.m. this coming Monday.

In other action, commissioners approved a 7 percent health insurance premium hike for county employees, along with a similar rise in the county's contribution.

Insurance consultant Ken Wethe had recommended a 10 percent rise in both employee and employer premiums. He said the rise was needed to keep a roughly $1.2 million fund balance intact.

The $3.7 million self-funded health and dental plan cost is up 14.8 percent.

"I'd like to see us give them a little bit of a cut on that," Commissioner Gary Boyd said in proposing the compromise increase. "It does help the employees, a little bit, in times that are tough."'

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