Williamson County news items

Posted in Commissioners Court, Good Stuff, Taxes, The Budget, Williamson County at 9:27 am by wcnews

Via THN, Freedom rings in WilCo, (click the link to see more pictures).

As civil rights organizations and leaders marched on Aug. 24 from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., a “Let Freedom Ring” rally took place on the south steps of the Williamson County Courthouse in Georgetown in commemoration of the 1963 march that was a key moment in the struggle for civil rights in the United States.

About 200 residents from various cities in Williamson County, including Hutto and Taylor, attended the event that focused on social equality and service to one’s community.

The rally included several inspirational hymns such as ‘We Shall Overcome,’ a touching reading of the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech by Taylor Rev. Wendell Hosey and closing remarks by Jose Orta, one of the event organizers, NAACP and LULUC representative and Taylor resident.

Orta, Hosey and others who spoke at the event reminded Williamson County residents that there is still work to be done in order to continue the fight for jobs, justice and freedom.

The WCCC moved forward with the budget on Tuesday, Williamson County adopts $236M budget.

The Williamson County Commissioners Court on Tuesday adopted a $236 million budget that calls for hiring 14 new staffers, distributing up to $1.9 million in merit-based civilian-employee raises of up to 4 percent and purchasing 22 new EKG machines for county ambulances.

Additionally, about 200 law enforcement personnel will receive raises averaging $10,000 to $20,000, based on a recent salary study a private agency conducted for the county.

The fiscal year 2014 budget, which takes effect Oct. 1, is about 11 percent more than the $216 million budget commissioners adopted last year at this time. Population growth and the staffing needs that go along with it are driving the increase, Williamson County Budget Officer Ashlie Koenig said.

“For the last few years with the downturn in the economy the court has been very conscientious of taxpayer dollars,” she said. “I think they recognized the needs but the funding wasn’t there. This was the year to come back and look at those items that had been on the back-burner.”

The tax rate is still not settled. There are two public hearings coming up on the budgtet.

Commissioners on Tuesday delayed adopting a tax rate. County Judge Dan Gattis said he favors setting the tax rate at the “effective rate” of 48.1 cents per $100 assessed valuation. The effective tax rate is the rate that would raise the same amount of money in the year ahead, as was raised in the year that’s ending, taking new property values into account. When property values go up — as they have — the effective rate comes in at a figure lower than the actual rate for the current year. This year’s county tax rate is 48.9 cents per $100 assessed valuation.

Because of those higher property values, Gattis said adoption of the 48.1 cent effective rate would raise county taxes by $21 for the average homeowner.

However, the other four members of the Commissioners Court favor setting the tax rate at the current rate, citing increased county spending.

Koenig said setting the tax rate at the effective rate would require taking $3.8 million from the county’s reserve fund, which is like a saving account. Assistant County Auditor Julie Kiley said the county anticipates having $73.8 million in reserves when the current fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

Leaving the tax rate at the current rate — which is what a majority of the Commissioner Court intends to do — will only require drawing $1.3 million from reserves in order to balance the budget, Koenig said.

However, since commissioners intend to set the tax rate at a rate higher than the effective rate, the county must hold a pair of public hearings Sept. 10 and 17 at the county courthouse in downtown Georgetown. Both hearings are scheduled for 10 a.m.

It would be much more fair and open if the commissioners would have one meeting in the evening.  That way working people in Williamson County could have a chance to attend one of the public hearings.

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