GATESVILLE — Coryell County commissioners on Monday unanimously adopted a 2013 tax rate of 44.9 cents per $100 property value and voted 3-2 to approve a 2014 budget with $12.8 million in spending and $11.7 million in revenue.
Although the tax rate is the same as last year’s, it will generate more revenue due to an increase in property valuation, representing a tax increase of 0.75 percent.
Two people spoke in opposition to the “tax hike” during a public hearing before the vote.
“I don’t want a tax hike,” Lynn Massingill told the commissioners. “We have friends and neighbors who are seeing foreclosures because they can’t pay their taxes.”
“The proposed tax rate is not an increase,” County Judge John Firth said. “Some properties have increased in value.”
Andy Massingill, Lynn’s nephew, took exception to Firth’s explanation.
“If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck …,” Massingill began.
“It’s a duck, Andy,” Firth said, conceding that county taxes are going up.
On the budget vote, Commissioners Daren Moore and Justin Latham voted no. Firth and Commissioners Jack Wall and Don Jones voted yes.
“If we are committed to building a new jail, which I was against, then we need to save for that,” Latham said.
Moore agreed, saying, “We need to be saving more for the jail to avoid a huge tax hike down the road.”
Moore said he objected to the removal from the final budget of funding to improve courthouse security, which he said is a crucial “public safety issue.”
The budget provides for the hiring of two patrol deputies for the sheriff’s department.
But Moore and Latham said they would have preferred the money be spent to add jailers or increase courthouse security.
The budget includes funds to hire a third assistant district attorney and bring in a visiting judge in efforts to increase the number of criminal cases tried and thus reduce overcrowding in the county jail.
The budget also provides for the creation of a county human resources department.