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County Tax Rate Reduced By 4 Cents, Balanced Budget Includes Raises, Budget Increases

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Hopkins County Commissioners Court have adopted a tax rate that is 4 cents lower and a balance budget that includes raises and increases to some budget areas.

Tax Rate Reduction

As proposed by County Tax Assessor/Collector Debbie Mitchell based on the formula given by the state and months worth of budget sessions the tax rate approved on Aug. 23 by the Commissioners Court is $0.584035, down from the current county tax rate of $0.624892 per $100 property valuation.

Although lower, that tax rate is expected to raise $888,540 or 6.9 percent more than the current 2020 tax rate, with $280,336 of the tax revenue to be raised from new property added to the tax roll this year. An overall increase in tax appraisals also contributes to the increase in revenue. In other words, while a property owner’s tax rate is down, an increase in appraisal value does not necessarily mean their tax bill will decrease. An increase in appraisal value could mean very little difference or, depending on the appraisal increase, or even an increase in the amount the property owner has to pay for their property bill.

Tax rate information for FY 2021 according to the Notice of Public Hearing/Public Meeting for the tax rate posted by Hopkins County.

Commissioner Wade Bartley pointed out while the Commissioners Court can control the tax rate, the group does not have any control over tax values; that is handled by the appraisal office.

County Auditor Shannah Aulsbrook also noted that the county has recently received and A+ Rating, which has allowed the county to pay down some debt.

Debt service information for FY 2021 according to the Notice of Public Hearing/Public Meeting

Budget

The Commissioners Court also approved salaries for elected officials and the fiscal year 2021-2022 budget for Hopkins County.

According to the proposed budget posted on the Hopkins County website for the year beginning Oct. 1, 2021 and ending Sept. 30, 2022, the county judge, county clerk, district clerk, justices of the peace, county attorney, county auditor, county treasurer, tax assessor/collector, sheriff and commissioners salary as elected officials is set at $66,107, while the County Court-At-Law elected salary is $70,591 and constables’ salary is $62,501.

Also approved during the Aug. 23 meeting was the pay for the court stenographer (shorthand court reporter) for the 62nd Judicial District. Hopkins County will pay part of the salary and the three other counties in the district – Delta, Franklin and Lamar – will pay the rest. Hopkins and Lamar are larger, so they will pay a larger portion of the salary.

Aulsbrook reports the FY 21-22 budget will be balanced, even with a $0.040857 reduction in county tax rate, and leave $4 million remaining in the county’s general fund in keeping with policy at the end of the year.

Even through the pandemic, the county managed to pay down on debts and save in many areas of the budget due to inmate trustee programs and housing of federal inmates, she noted.

“These combined changes have allowed us to give across the board raises to all elected officials and county employees, as well as assist the budget in many areas,” Aulsbrook said.

Members of the County Commissioners Court after the Aug. 13 meeting reported a 12 percent pay increase, thanks to those special programs.

Also incorporated into the FY 2021-22 budget are three additional personnel at the sheriff’s office: a jail nurse, an additional jailer position and an additional dispatch position to meet the growing needs at the jail.

“All three judges – the 8th and 62nd Judicial District and County Court-At-Law – were granted funding in their Court Appointed Attorney expenses,” Aulsbrook said.

The volunteer fire department budget will also receive an overall increase to assist with the purchase of tires, and Hopkins County Fire Department will receive an increase overall to cover repairs and maintenance of buildings and vehicles in the FY 2021-22 budget, Aulsbrook also noted.

The budget proposal shows $215,000 budgeted to the VFDs, up from $214,200 in FY 2021 and $188,00 in FY 2019-2020. In a previous meeting, it was noted that the commissioners have opted to have the money received for turning in scrap metal to the volunteer fire departments to help with tire expenses. The county added $12,116 to the budget for this operating expense. Another $800 is allocated for pump testing for VFDs.

The budget also shows $557,247 allocated to HCFD for personnel, up from $522,883 in the FY 2020-21 budget and $507,684 for 2019-2020. Another $184,833 is allocated for operating costs, including $1,250 addition for direct operations; $3,000 more for gas, oil and grease; $6,000 more for repairs and maintenance; $364 more for maintenance agreements, $68 more for uniforms, and $1,000 more for office equipment. Overall, HCFD’s operating costs are expected to be $184,833, which when coupled with the $40,000 grant match and personnel brings the total HCFD budget to $782,090,

Another notable inclusion in the FY 21-22 budget is funding in the elections budget to purchase the mandates elections equipment for future elections.

Another budgetary change can be found in the courthouse security budget, which is decreasing from $75,016 to $16,300. The county completely cut out security salaries, which were budgeted at $40,163 that last year, as well as related amounts such as $8,256 in group insurance and $150 in longevity pay. When Butch Adams retired as security officer earlier this summer, funding for the security position switched from the courthouse to the sheriff’s office, as sheriff’s officers will work rotating shifts to handle all security for court systems.

“We are grateful for the cooperation from all elected officials, appointed officials, departments heads and county staff to help develop the FY 2021-2022 budget. In this challenging financial environment, their cooperation has been essential in helping the County keep its finances on a sound footing. I believe the budget provides the frame work to help us navigate through the anticipated challenges during FY2022, and by working together we have found ways within all departments to work smarter, be intentional with the tax payers’ dollars and to make the money stretch further than ever,” Aulsbrook concluded.

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Author: Faith Huffman

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