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Gregg County pledges $2.5 million for new animal shelter

By Glenn Evans
July 31, 2013 at 10 p.m.

A $58.9 million Gregg County budget for the coming fiscal year includes a $2.5 million commitment to building a <a href="" target="_blank">new animal shelter</a> in partnership with the city of Longview.

County Judge Bill Stoudt filed his spending proposal with County Clerk Connie Wade on Thursday. The document seeks the same, 26¼-cent tax rate property owners shouldered this year.

It also adds no county debt while still laying out about $14 million for large projects such as the proposed animal center.

The day-to-day operations budget is proposed at $47.4 million, and is separate from the capital projects budget that is fed by reserves.

Stoudt proposes spending $4 million less next year on capital projects, after substantial investments this year in the George Richey Road extension and renovation of the Henry Atkinson Terminal at East Texas Regional Airport.

"We'll probably put some additional (money) into reserves this year," he said.

Daily spending is proposed at $400,000 less than in this year's budget.

The fiscal year begins Oct. 1, and commissioners have about a month to seek any changes before Stoudt asks for their approval of the budget and tax rate Aug. 27.

"We pay as we go - that's the bottom line," Stoudt said after filing the document and making copies for commissioners. "I think, overall, it's a strong, healthy, good budget."

The judge has said for a year or more the county will be a partner with Longview and other cities in the county in building and operating a new animal shelter.

"The animal shelter's in there," Stoudt said of his proposal. "I thought it was important that we partner with the city of Longview, that we get this done once and for all and be thinking about a long-term facility."

Longview Mayor Jay Dean, who named a panel this past year that recommended a facility shared by the county and its cities, has not specified what the city might contribute. The city budget submitted to the City Council this week includes $3.6 million in undedicated reserves, a potential well for the shelter.

Stoudt's budget for the county also includes about $250,000 in safety upgrades to a five-road intersection where Smelley and Alpine roads converge near Loop 281.

A $500,000 match is the county's contribution to a $5 million road around the perimeter of East Texas Regional Airport that the Federal Aviation Administration plans to build.

The budget includes a 2 percent cost of living raise for employees. Elected officials are offered the same option, though many, including Stoudt, turn it down each year.

A more substantial pay raise is included for jailers, the last of a three-year plan that will bring their starting pay to $29,500.

Road and bridge budgets for Pcts. 1, 3 and 4 - Pct. 2 is encompassed by Longview and has no county roads - are respectively $1.76 million, $1.9 million and $1.2 million. Spending in those precincts was budgeted this year at $1.74 million, $1.83 million and $1.1 million, respectively.



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