By Jade Ortego

Killeen Daily Herald

BELTON – The Bell County Commissioners Court on Monday approved a conservative budget and an effective tax rate of 40.54 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for the 2009-10 fiscal year.

Estimated revenues are $63.6 million and expenditures are $69.7 million. The county government is prepared to pull $5.8 million from its fund balance to cover the difference.

The new budget includes no cost-of-living increases or raises for employees and has no new employee hires.

"I think that what we realized is that the economy is really tough right now and there probably is a valid need for additional personnel in some offices, but we just couldn't see giving any additional personnel," Commissioner Richard Cortese told the Herald last week.

"We've done a good job of scrubbing the budget down as close as we can get it and still maintain those services we've grown accustomed to having," he said.

The budget includes a $907,979 increase in total personnel costs, mostly for retirement and health insurance.

County Judge Jon Burrows said that Bell County is lucky to be having discussions about economic development, when many areas are experiencing negative growth. Forbes Magazine named the Killeen/Temple area the fifth-best small city for jobs in the nation in April.

Commissioners also approved continuing the administration of the County Indigent Health Care Program, a department created by the court to serve the health needs of those with very low incomes in Bell County. The indigent health fund in the new budget includes an increase of $277,000, or $4.9 million total for the 2009-10 fiscal year.

According to a report presented by a representative of CIHCP, the average caseload was 729 per month during fiscal year 2009, up from 636 in 2008. The average cost per person was $4,459.

Almost 60 percent of applicants were female. The top three diagnoses for the period of Sept. 8, 2008, to August 2009, and the previous period, were diabetes mellitus, hypertension and chest pain.

The court also agreed to declare September as Shaken Baby Syndrome and Child Safety Awareness Month. About one in three Texans polled doesn't know it is dangerous to shake babies, Burrows said.

Contact Jade Ortego at or (254) 501-7553.

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