To the Editor:
With reluctance and due respect to Dr. Claudia Brown, I find it necessary to correct several points she attempted to make in her letter published on Sunday, May 11.
In her letter, Dr. Brown urges the public to voice objections to a proposed Bell County tax increase and refers to a previous increase passed for the purpose of funding $30,000 raises for the five members of the “governing body” (presumably the members of the Commissioners Court).
In fact, there is no county budget under consideration at this time. The Commissioners Court adopted the annual budget for the county last September and it went into effect on Oct. 1. We have not yet begun our budget process for the next fiscal year.
In developing our current budget, we included a 2 percent across-the-board cost-of-living increase for all county employees, including elected officials, but there was no tax increase. The rate for FY 2013 was 45.1 cents. Our current rate is 45.1 cents. (For the sake of comparison, the average rate for 13 surrounding counties is 57.8 cents). And there were no $30,000 raises for any commissioner in this current budget or in any previous budget.
Beyond her complete disconnection from the facts on those points, it seems that Dr. Brown may also be confusing Bell County with the Bell County Appraisal District (as did the headline for the letter).
This is not uncommon.
It is not generally understood that the appraisal district is in fact an independent agency, created under state law and operating under the oversight of the comptroller of the state of Texas. The district provides appraisal, assessment and collection services, on a contract basis, for all taxing entities in the county, including Bell County, but they are not otherwise affiliated with the county.
Finally, because Dr. Brown made an oblique reference to exemptions, I need to clarify that Bell County early on approved the tax freeze for the over-65 segment of the population as well as the statutory exemptions for disabled veterans and qualifying survivors.
Bell County commissioner, Precinct 2