LAMPASAS — Numbers and expenditures were “juggled” Tuesday as county commissioners began work on next year’s budget at a workshop session.
Following last year’s 6 percent pay increase for county employees and an increased tax rate, commissioners’ discussed ways to improve retirement funding and possibly provide another pay raise, while holding taxes steady.
“We’re not in a bad position, but I’m looking for a little direction,” said Chris Munn, county auditor. “Do you want to raise taxes, lower revenue or a combination of both?”
According to the budget draft, the county will take in about $7.38 million in general revenue and spend $7.58 million, creating a $200,000 deficit.
The road maintenance fund, separate from the county’s general fund, will have an estimated $185,000 surplus after $2.21 million is set aside, if the preliminary budget holds true.
The budget was formulated with the current property tax rate of 64 cents per $100 assessed valuation, Munn said. The county’s total property tax rate is a combination of three rates: maintenance and operations, debt services, and roads and bridges.
Munn said to keep the tax rate steady, one possible option included using some of the road and bridge fund surplus to pay the county’s debt. That would lower the debt services tax rate for next year and allow the maintenance and operations rate to increase while keeping the overall rate the same, he said.
Another option, he said, is reducing the 3 percent pay raise for county employees he included in the preliminary 2015 fiscal year budget.
Commissioners also must consider whether to approve a cost-of-living adjustment for county retirees, which is an expensive endeavor, Munn said.
“It costs so much because we have to fund (the increased adjustment), forever,” he said.
Retirees have not received adjustments in four years, officials said.
With enough maneuvering, Munn was able to get the general fund deficit down to $21,000 at Tuesday’s meeting, but the figure comes before officials know how much the cost-of-living adjustment will cost.
“We’re juggling numbers, we’re juggling money, to come up with that $200,000 deficit. … What can we do to live within our means?” asked Lowell Ivey, commissioner of Precinct 3.
Commissioners will meet at 9 a.m. today to further discuss the FY 2015 budget. It is due for final approval in September.