County budget increase to be offset by new construction



By Lew K. Cohn

Managing Editor

The Highlander

A preliminary 2018-19 Burnet County general fund budget would see an increase of just under $1.6 million in expenditures, but those expenses would be offset by taxes and revenues generated by new construction within Burnet County, County Auditor Karen Hardin said.

Commissioners held a workshop on a rough draft of the budget Tuesday, June 26, looking to create a budget built on the same .3969 per $100 valuation tax rate the county already has in place.

The draft 2018-19 general fund budget calls for expenditures of $21,896,819, an increase of 7.97 percent above the $20,280,854.04 that was budgeted for fiscal year 2017-18.

The proposed budget calls for the addition of three new positions, one of which is reinstating the position of indigent health care administrator as a county employee instead of paying for this position through contract services, so there will not be a change in the amount of funding.

Commissioners also are considering adding a commercial vehicle enforcement officer to the sheriff's department and a full-time maintenance position to the Burnet County Jail, which would add an extra $147,578 to the general fund budget between the two positions.

However, commissioners did remove a request for an additional 882 hours employment for a part time float clerk for the justice courts (which would have been an additional $18,150) and also decided not to remain part of the Capital Regional Public Defenders group, which supplies court-appointed attorneys to defend those accused of committing capital offenses within a 40-county region — a move which will save the county an additional $12,500.

Hardin said the draft budget — which is still subject to change — includes a two-percent cost of living increase for all county employees, which will require an additional $515,286. Overtime funding is expected to increase by $45,000, while the county also is expected to pay an additional $220,413 in workers compensation coverage due to past claim performance.

The county did receive some excellent news when it came to estimating the budget increase for employee insurance coverage on the portion the county pays for its 350 employees. While Hardin and commissioners anticipated an increase approaching 10 to 20 percent, the actual number came back at just 1.3 percent more — an amount of $48,458 above the nearly $3.73 million budgeted last year.

Overall, the county is expecting to pay an additional $385,842 for employee fringe benefits, bringing the total salary and benefits increase to $945,757 for the coming fiscal year.

Other general fund budget requests are expected to increase by $779,791, which includes a $151,791 cost for annual licensing fees; an $85,218 increase in EMS contracts with Marble Falls Area EMS and Burnet EMS, which includes a five-percent escalator clause; a $90,000 increase in inmate housing costs; a $72,486 increase in fuel costs (about 20 percent); and a $68,000 increase in funding for the Hill Country Humane Society’s animal shelter.

However, capital outlay expenses are down $411,582 from last fiscal year to just $401,118, though the requests include some big ticket items, including $134,015 for seven new patrol vehicles and two new vehicles for criminal investigations department (CID) at the sheriff’s department, as well as $61,803 for the county’s matching funds to obtain new tasers, body cameras, evidence lockers, interview room cameras and body armor for the BCSO.

The county is also setting aside $95,000 for building repairs — which includes $5,000 for carpeting and $10,000 for concrete repair at the maintenance shop — and $45,000 for air conditioning expenses.

County commissioners are charged with setting a proposed budget and adopting a tax rate before the beginning of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1.

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