Monday, February 19, 2018

'Little excess revenue' in Upshur's 2017 budget

By Glenn Evans
July 26, 2017 at 11:35 p.m.
Updated July 27, 2017 at 2:33 p.m.

County judge Dean Fowler and the Upshur County Commissioners hold a special meeting to discuss hiring an attorney and obtaining a legal opinion regarding county buildings, security in county buildings, and other aspects of county government, on Thursday October 22, 2015, at the Upshur County Courthouse. (Michael Cavazos/News-Journal Photo)

GILMER — Upshur County officials and department heads will make their pitches for next year's budget to commissioners Monday against the backdrop of County Judge Dean Fowler's $10.4 million proposed spending plan.

"And that'll be the long, all-day (annual) session," Fowler said. "The budget as proposed right now leaves us very little excess revenue."

Fowler said adopting a tax rate that will draw an amount of local revenue equal to this past year's will leave the budget with $4,000 breathing room.

The county also expects to have a fund balance of about $2.4 million when the fiscal year ends Sept. 30. Fowler does not anticipate drawing from that contingency account to balance the county budget.

That effective tax rate is 54.6 cents per $100 property valuation. It's lower than this year's 56.98-cent rate, courtesy of an overall increase in property values, especially in the Diana area where Fowler said the county has seen the most growth.

This year's spending plan was $10.3 million.

"The major difference is we had to put another $180,000 in our health insurance," he said, adding that the county's self-insurance plan had a "bad year in claims. It's cyclical that way. Every three or four years you'll have (a spike in claims)."

Upshur County has no debt, having paid off certificates of obligation that commissioners issued in the 1990s to build the Justice Center on Titus Street.

Dean proposes no major capital projects in the budget he filed with County Clerk Terri Ross.

He also did not include employee raises, making it 13 years since employees have received cost-of-living hikes.

He said the county will continue to contribute to employee retirement accounts dollar-for-dollar at up to 7 percent of pay.

"Most counties have a 2:1 (county to employee ratio)," he said. "But we're at 1:1."

Commissioners last year turned away an employee pay hike that then-new Sheriff Larry Webb had sought.

Webb is scheduled to speak about raises in his department to the full commissioners court at a meeting to be held after Monday's.

The judge said road and bridge spending in his plan is "basically the same" as in this year's budget, at $2.6 million. That includes a $100,000 equipment allotment that's been static the past several years.



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