It’s no surprise that the first statement Wharton County Judge Phillip Spenrath would say when opening the Wharton County Commissioners Court budget workshop on Monday, Aug. 12 was that the county was proposing to raise taxes, but that it was happening for the first time since he became judge.
Spenrath has been the judge since 2011.
“I’ve said it all along; I do not see any way to have a budget without raising taxes this year,” he said.
All three commissioners, including the newly-appointed representative for Precinct 2, Rusty Graves, didn’t have a difference of opinions after listening to Spenrath give a presentation, which included new recurring expenditures totaling $423,000.
They may be new items to the proposed budget, but they are not new as far as being introduced for the first time. Many of these items have been discussed at different times throughout the year.
Among them were 23rd District Court ($245,000), Employee health insurance increase of 3.3 percent ($86,000), employee retirement contribution ($70,000), Central Appraisal District increase ($12,000) and adult probation ($10,000).
He mentioned how many homeowner’s land values went up and that is having an effect on county matters.
“When appraisal goes up, your taxes should go down because the effective rate should give you more or less the same tax dollars you got last year,” Spenrath said. “The county operates roughly on $25 million last year.”
He said to give the county the opportunity to operate around the same amount, and since the land values “went through the roof,” the county wouldn’t have as much of a levy.
He mentioned how the effective tax rate was $.43940.
Without receiving complaints from commissioners, he said to increase to cover the 23 district court and 3 percent employee COLA and boost and cuts in the Indigent Health Care reserves, a 2 cent per $100 valuation increase was necessary.
The county is proposing a final tax rate of $.46240.
“I just don’t see any way around it,” Spenrath said.
Now that the court introduced the increased tax rate, it has announced dates associated with these action.
There are two special public hearings on Tuesday, Aug. 27 at 9 a.m., and another on Tuesday, Sept. 3 at 11 a.m.
The Commissioners Court will vote to adopt the 2020 budget on Monday, Sept. 9, the same day it will vote to adopt the 2019 tax rate.