Commissioners set ceiling for property tax rate

By Kathryn Jones


Photo by Kathryn Jones/GR Current

Photo by Kathryn Jones/GR Current

Somervell County Commissioners on Monday set a proposed property tax rate of 41.622 cents per $100 in property valuations for new budget year.

Voting on a proposed tax rate is “unusual and new to the budget process,” County Judge Mike Ford noted.

The Texas Legislature, in trying to simply tax rate change notices, in June 2013 passed legislation requiring local governments to provide published notice of proposed property tax rate changes. Effective Jan. 1 of this year, counties and municipalities must use a new public notice method.

The new procedure was designed to make it easier for taxpayers to read and understand tax rate changes, but it also could create some confusion among taxpayers who see the proposed rate published in local media outlets and think it’s the final figure, Ford noted. It’s not – that must be voted on after a public hearing, which is expected to take place on Aug. 25.

“What we’re voting on does not set this the tax rate,” Ford explained. “That can only be done after we’ve had a public hearing and we take on, first of all, approval of the budget and, finally, of the tax rate.”

Last year the adopted county tax rate was 40.159 cents.

The 41.622 cents figure establishes the maximum amount for the final rate. County commissioners can go down on the final rate without republishing the figure, but they cannot go up without the public notice process starting over.

“This (establishing a proposed property tax) is a requirement, but it’s non-binding,” Commissioner James Barnard commented.

The binding part is that commissioners are establishing a ceiling with the proposed tax rate, County Auditor Brian Watts said.

“Whatever we put in that ad, I want to make sure the public has realistic information,” Ford said. “We need to be sure whatever we decide today, we can live with.”

He said the final tax rate would be “close” to the proposed rate of 41.622 cents.

“I’m confident that the work that has led up to the development of this number is accurate and we don’t anticipate any deviation from this number,” Commissioner John Curtis commented.

Commissioners voted unanimously to accept the proposed tax rate and publish it.

County elected officials came to an unofficial agreement last month not to raise salaries, expenses or allowances in the new budget year. The state provides judicial supplements for the county judge and county attorney, so those supplements do show up in the budget figures, Ford noted.

Permission for pipeline

In other action, commissioners voted to start the process to allow Sunoco permission to run a pipeline under county roads as long as it meets county guidelines and it goes through the process of notifying the county and superintendent of the pipeline’s location.

Discussions underway about reviving nursing program

Commissioners also approved two lease agreements for Hill College – one for its administrative functions in the old Law Enforcement Center and another for the building it uses for its cosmetology program in the Gibbs Industrial Park.

“We did not change anything; this basically is a service of the county for the community,” Ford said. “The major benefactor of having Hill College here is Glen Rose High School. You all are very familiar with the incredible success our students have in coming out of high school with anywhere from 12 to 16 college credits already in hand. That’s due in large part to the partnership we have with Hill College in providing those credits.”

Some commissioners wanted to know why Hill College pulled its nursing program out of the county.

The lease agreement refers to the nursing program and Ford said discussions are ongoing about bringing back training for students to become Licensed Vocational Nurses.

“My opinion on this has always been what is good for the high school,” Ford said. “The school district came in and said at this point in time these courses are more important, although they’d love to have the LVN program.

“I do think we’re headed that other direction and there are a lot of other conversations going on right now,” Ford added.

Another school had expressed interest about bringing a nursing program to Glen Rose, Barnard noted.

Because of a legislative mandate for counties to be assigned to junior college district, Somervell County is assigned to Hill College. To change that, a bill would have to be presented in the next session of the Texas Legislature to allow another junior college to come in, Ford noted.

“The junior college that is wanting to come in here, they’re talking to us about the fact that they have legislators that are ready to do it, and Hill has their own legislators. This could turn into a boxing match.”

If another college were to provide a nursing program at the same site, the county would let Hill College out of the lease agreement, the county judged added.

“I just hated to see them lose the nursing program,” Barnard said.

“Well, we all did,” Ford agreed.

Turn lane from Highway 67 to Fossil Rim

The Texas Department of Transportation also is talking with the county about a memorandum of understanding for a turning lane in U.S. Highway 67 at the access to County Road 2008 that leads to the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center.

Curtis, whose district includes Fossil Rim, said that due to the number of vehicles turning off Highway 67 there at certain times of the year, there is a potential for accidents.

“We’re trying to work with TxDoT and mutually coming together to make this happen,” Curtis said. He promised to give commissioners more information after he, Commissioner Larry Hulsey and County Superintendent Wade Busch meet with TxDoT.

Golf course equipment, revenues

Commissioners also approved a request for $126,875 for Squaw Valley Golf Course to replace aging equipment and purchase a fairway mower, rough mower and greens roller.

July was a good month for the golf course, according to its monthly report. Revenues totaled more than $151,188 with more than 4,000 rounds of golf played.



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