GATESVILLE — Coryell County commissioners on Monday started working on the 2014 budget by the numbers.
While revenues are expected to increase, spending requests are increasing even more.
The county is projecting total revenue of $15.1 million and projected expenditures of $17.6 million, leaving a proposed deficit of about $2.5 million
The fund balance projected for the end of the year is $4 million, about 23 percent of the budget.
County Judge John Firth said the county must ensure the fund balance at the end of the year shows a reserve of 27 percent — a 25 percent comfort level plus 2 percent in capital improvement funds earmarked for a new jail.
“We will have to increase the tax rate or reduce the reserve” to meet all expenditure requests, Firth said. “This is where we get down and dirty.”
The county now has two key figures needed to go public with the process of making a budget and setting the tax rate — the effective tax rate and the rollback rate.
The effective tax rate — the rate that would generate the same revenue as last year on properties taxed in both years — is 44.58 cents per $100 valuation, down from last year’s 44.9 cents due to increased property valuation.
The rollback rate — the rate that would trigger a possible petition by residents to force a rollback election — is 49.43 cents per $100 valuation.
“It is easier to cut (spending) than add (revenue),” Commissioner Jack Wall said.
Firth urged the commissioners to focus on “big ticket” items, those from departments with budgets above $500,000 or with budget increases of more than 4 percent over last year.
Proposals aimed at moving more criminal cases through 52nd District Court — increasing the use of a visiting judge and adding a third prosecutor to District Attorney Dusty Boyd’s office — were among the “big ticket” items scrutinized Monday.
County Attorney Brandon Belt said a third prosecutor in the DA’s office would be needed regardless of whether a visiting judge was brought in to help with the case load.
In other action, the commissioners continued to struggle to find the best use for the recently purchased Extraco building.
The commissioners’ court approved, 3-2, a plan to move the offices of the county judge, county auditor, county treasurer and one county commissioner into the new building with minimal renovation. This would free space in the old courthouse for offices focused on the courts.
Commissioners Wall, Don Jones and Daren Moore voted for the move with minor renovations. Commissioner Justin Latham voted no.
Firth, who recommended the short-term move of the courthouse offices to the Extraco building, voted against the measure because it included minor renovations. He preferred no renovations to save money and avoid the delay of obtaining city building permits.
Commissioners agreed to work toward a long-term plan to extensively renovate the building to accommodate two justices of the peace, constables, the sheriff’s department criminal-investigation division, evidence storage and armory as well as offices for a state game warden and Department of Public Safety officer.