By Jon Schroeder
The Cove Herald
A Texas Department of Transportation designation has placed Coryell County on the “economically disadvantaged” list for the 2008 fiscal year, but the news might not be all bad.
Coryell County Judge John Firth said county officials only became aware of the study in recent days, although it was published in August.
“To tell you the truth, I didn’t even know that such a designation existed,” he said.
But now that he knows, it’s time to act. Firth will meet Friday with a Waco district engineer to specifically discuss programs for which the county may now be eligible, including one which would allow counties to pay a reduced matching rate for highway construction.
Coryell County, with a 47 percent adjustment, has one of the smallest adjustment figures of any economically disadvantaged counties in Texas, with numbers ranging from 33 percent (Rusk County) to 91 percent (Zavala County).
That means that the county would have to pay only about half the usual matching funds toward highway construction.
It’s one program which Firth says he plans to look into.
“The bottom line is at the same time we’re working with (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and working with the state, what we’re also doing is working with TxDOT to see if we can not only repair ... but actually look at new road construction,” Firth said.
But in addition to any specifically TxDOT programs, Firth said the information, while it looks bad on a surface-level evaluation, may hold some silver linings.
“The good news for citizens of Coryell County is we can get a lot more for our dollar when we buy homes and property,” Firth said. “It’s viewed at the state level as an economic disadvantage from the standpoint of collection of property taxes. What we would like to highlight is that it’s a big advantage for people moving to the county.”
According to TxDOT documentation, an economically disadvantaged county is one which fits three criteria: below average per capita taxable property value, below average per capita income and above average unemployment rate.
“Because we had looked at the property tax issue within the county and we looked at the per capita income within the county, from that perspective it’s not surprising,” Firth said, noting that those two factors probably were the primary reason for the designation.
“I think it’s probably not the employment rate that’s driving this,” he said.
The information used to compile the 2008 list of counties eligible for the TxDOT economically disadvantaged county program is from 2005, so the economic conditions of the county have not necessarily lowered since then, according to TxDOT documents.
Contact Jon Schroeder at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 547-0428