On Sept. 26, your Wharton County Commissioners Court adopted our 12th consecutive balanced budget utilizing our county’s lowest property tax rate in over 15 years.
The 2022 no new revenue tax rate of $.39056 is 3.4 cents lower than our current rate and once again cuts taxes on a $100,000 home by approx. $34.23.
Current 2021 tax rate: $.42479
2022 no new tax rate: - $.39056
Decrease in tax rate: -$.03423
New subdivisions, pipeline extensions, and solar farm development will generate sufficient 2023 revenues needed to offset skyrocketing prices of fuel ($500,000); employee health insurance ($155,000); electricity ($125,000); indigent attorney fees ($100,000); and capital murder trials ($600,000).
In budgeting for 2023, Wharton County will remain 100% debt free for a 10th consecutive year. Being spared from the onus of high interest rates and overbearing lending fees, your county officials can apportion the majority of our 2023 new property and sales tax receipts to provide meaningful $3,500 cost of living pay increases for all 236 county employees. The 2023 budget further reallocates unencumbered 2022 budgetary funds to assist in providing long-awaited $2,500 adjustments to the base salaries of your sheriff patrol deputies (18), correctional officers (30), dispatchers (8), staff in smaller depts. (11), and department heads (29) which include elected officials. Aside from the sporadic cost of living adjustment, these base salaries have remained unchanged for over a decade.
Take note: all funding needed for the aforementioned pay increases will come from new development, sales tax returns, and the reallocation of existing reserves. Wharton County is not, and will not raise overall existing property taxes.
The local Central Appraisal District recently certified Wharton County’s 2022 net taxable value at $4,718,920,627 which is $657,199,232 above last year’s certified values of $4,061,721,395.
2022 Certified appraisals: $4,718,920,627
2021 Certified appraisals: $4,061,721,395
Increase in appraisals: $ 657,199,232
Theoretically, when property valuations increase all governmental tax levies should decrease. If an entity retains their current tax rate, and thereby refuses to adopt the lower no new revenue tax rate, then they are raising your taxes. As stated throughout today’s column, Wharton County’s new rate ensures that we are not raising overall taxes on existing property.
Our 2023 budget is balanced as our three major governmental funds (general, road and bridge, and FM&LR) have anticipated budget revenues totaling $28,110,659 and standard operating expenditures totaling $28,081,620.
2023 Revenues: $28,110,659
2023 Expenditures: $28,081,620
Total surplus: $29,039
Your elected commissioners court remains committed to purchasing needed capital on a pay-as-you-go basis. If we realize extra savings we purchase needed machinery. Our county’s upcoming 2023 budget utilizes $3.1 million in excess savings to purchase the following capital and one-time expenditures:
General: $600,000 for murder trials; six law enforcement vehicles; LED lighting upgrades to county buildings; HVAC unit; law enforcement equipment; office computers, and $500,000 contingency to cover potential increases in countywide fuel purchases.
Road and Bridge: $1 millon for special services and capital equipment; a new oil distributor truck; overhead doors and storage bins for the new recycling area at solid waste station; $350,000 contingency designated for unforeseen bridge repair; and $150,000 contingency for actual road materials (not machinery or maintenance.) We want to build and rehabilitate more roads and bridges in 2023.
FM&LR: $350,000 for one drainage bulldozer; $100,000 for engineering services; and $100,000 for easement acquisition. Upgrading countywide drainage remains a top priority.
Our Wharton County continues to experience strong economic development with the creation of meaningful new jobs and the injection of large sums of new investment dollars. A number of existing businesses have expanded their local operations and are increasing the workforce. Two new pipelines, one wind farm, and at least three solar developments are gearing up to bring over $1 billion in new countywide investments. (No county tax abatements were given.)
My fellow citizens, please know your elected county commissioners continue to be mindful of our nations ongoing economic struggles and how difficult it is for local business owners and their employees to keep the doors open and put food on the family table. We will definitely continue to be conservative, responsible, and practical in our budgeting for county taxpayer wants and needs.
As your county judge, transparency and openness remain my top priority. It is imperative that local governments continue to share information and explain decisions so that taxpayers can better understand how and why local government operates as it does. People and government working together is the key to efficient operations and continued countywide prosperity.