By Don Bolding

Killeen Daily Herald

Bell County Commissioners Monday morning canvassed and approved election results showing that voters May 12 approved the single constitutional amendment on the ballot by a landslide.

County Clerk Shelley Coston reported that 5,639 voters approved the amendment and only 382 voted against it. The figures mean about 94 percent of voters casting ballots approved the amendment, with 6 percent against. Coryell County's numbers were 91 percent in favor and 9 percent against. The measure passed with 89 percent of Texas voters in favor and 11 percent against.

The amendment, which went through the Legislature as Senate Joint Resolution 13, authorizes the Legislature to adjust the public school ad valorem tax or tax rates for taxpayers 65 or older who own an exempted homestead.

County Judge Jon Burrows said the turnout for the election was typical for constitutional amendments, despite the fact that the time was uncommon for general elections, usually held in November, and the only polling places for it were the early voting locations. School and city elections were held at the same time at different locations. Legislators wanted to hurry the measure so they could act on it in the current session, and county authorities wanted to limit the number of polling places to avoid having to open every location ordinarily used in general elections.

On a recommendation from county treasurer Charles E. Jones, commissioners awarded the county's four-year depository contract to Compass Bank, effectively renewing the county's relationship with the bank with an expectation of saving $1,200 to $1,500 a month in expenses over the previous contract after selecting the bank's bid over three others–JPMorgan Chase, First National Bank Texas and Extraco Banks.

Jones' report stated, "Compass and JPMorgan Chase can deliver all the current cash management tools that we use today. Extraco does not provide controlled disbursement, and First National Bank Texas does not provide many of the cash management tools that we use."

Among other considerations, Compass would allow an earnings credit excess that will allow the county to invest $1.1 million outside the bank without a charge.

Commissioner Tim Brown of Killeen commended all departments of the county for working together to make the county's operation efficient and economical. Judge Burrows added, "In a lot of counties, the departments are concerned with their own little fiefdoms, and they have accounts all over the place that end up costing a lot of money. Our departments all pull together to make us one of the most efficient and economical."

Commissioners received a plaque representing the 2006 Gold Star Safety Award from the Texas Association of Counties recognizing Bell County as one of nine counties qualifying for the award. The award recognizes excellence in safety in the workplace and control of workmen's compensation claims.

In receiving the plaque, commissioners cited members of the county's Loss Control Committee, including loss control coordinator and assistant county auditor Russell Williams, tax assessor-collector Sharon Long, district clerk Sheila Norman, county clerk Shelley Coston, Precinct 3 commissioner Eddy Lang, county engineer Richard Macchi, building and grounds director Mark Meyer, sheriff's department Lt. Chuck Cox and human resources director Ron Heuss.

Commissioners received a "Notice of Substantial Compliance" from the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation certifying the Bell County Justice Center as complying with the Texas Architectural Barriers Act, meaning the center is accessible to persons with disabilities. The center can display an "Access for All" decal from the Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities.

They authorized the county auditor to advertise for bids for a new aerial lift for the Building and Grounds Department.

On recommendation of Sheriff Dan Smith, they renewed the contract between the county and the Texas attorney general to continue participating in the Statewide Automated Victim Notification Service. Victims of crime in the county receive instructions on tracking the cases of offenders of concern to them to determine whether they remain incarcerated or have been released on parole, among other options. The attorney general's office reimburses the county up to $25,817 for expenses in providing the service.

This week and next week, commissioners are holding budget hearings for county departments and agencies the county helps fund. A comprehensive budget will be proposed on the agenda of a meeting after hearings are finished.

Commissioners meet at 9 a.m. each Monday. Next week's meeting is moved to Tuesday because of the Memorial Day holiday.

Contact Don Bolding at or (254) 501-7557

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