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Located on the first floor of the Smith County Annex Building
200 E. Ferguson, Suite 100
Tyler, Texas 75702
Email: Casey Murphy
Smith County Approves FY2020 Budget, Tax Rate
The Smith County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, August 27, adopted the Fiscal Year 2020 Smith County Budget and Tax Rate.
“This year’s budget is all about investing in our law enforcement operations, matching recurring expenses with recurring revenue sources, and continuing our commitment to building the road and bridge infrastructure in Smith County,” Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran said.
After the final public hearing was held on the balanced budget, the Commissioners Court approved the FY2020 Budget and Tax Rate.
Although the Commissioners Court approved a slight tax increase, Smith County expects to remain the 12th lowest tax rate out of the 254 counties in Texas.
The Commissioners Court approved a tax rate of 0.345000, which reflects an increase of about 3/4 of a penny over last year’s actual rate of 0.337311.
The tax increase was approved to pay for and offset the costs associated with additional law enforcement personnel needed in the Sheriff’s Office patrol division, criminal investigative division and detention officers in the jail. The added positions, and related expenses, amount to about $1.2 million of annual new expenses. The new tax rate generates that amount to ensure fiscal soundness in Smith County’s Budget.
“Proudly, we will remain one of the lowest of property tax rates in Texas, and we do so without losing sight of our priorities and without compromising quality of service,” Moran said.
After the first year completed of Road and Bridge Bond Projects, with several more currently underway, Smith County will continue this next fiscal year to invest in its road and bridge infrastructure.
“A recent review of the work completed in the first 12 months of that program concluded that we were substantially ahead of schedule with the completion of projects, and under budget. We reconstructed ten times the number of road miles last year than in previous years,” Moran said. “This is great news and a reflection of our commitment to be effective and efficient with each tax dollar that comes our way.”
The FY2020 Budget shows a continued commitment towards road and bridges, dedicating 3.5 cents of the current property tax rate – up from 2.9 cents -- toward the Road and Bridge fund. This adjustment ensures that the county continues to have sufficient funds dedicated each year to pay for maintenance of roads and bridges, as the bond program allows for major improvements. This is the sixth year for the county to direct funds into the Road and Bridge Program, over and above what is already allocated to the department from the maintenance and operations portion of property taxes, traffic fees and fines.
The FY2020 Budget also includes many state mandates from the Texas Legislature.
This year, Smith County is providing a necessary and significant increase of $500,000 to the Smith County Juvenile Services Department to meet state mandated staffing levels and to operate within state guidelines. This past year, the county had to pay almost half a million dollars towards expedited improvements in the low/medium risk county jail because of a state directive. And in this next fiscal year, the county will budget for a contribution amount of $1,750,000 toward state highway projects in the county, where a local match is required for the project to occur. In the past, that budget amount has been about $300,000 per year.
In FY2019, Smith County has worked hard to shore up its financial foundations, and will continue that path in FY2020. The county is transitioning to and preparing for larger capital improvement needs within the county.
Out of the county’s reserve fund, Moran said they are planning to transfer significant amounts to the Capital Improvement Fund, with an eye toward planning for and constructing a replacement Road and Bridge Department facility.
“Because of our conservative spending approach in the past few years, we anticipate that we will be able to pay for this replacement facility in cash, just as we have done with so many other properties in and around downtown,” Moran said.
He said they will also begin to evaluate the updated needs of the Smith County Courthouse and determine future solutions for the aging facility.
The FY2020 Budget also focuses on employee investment.
The adopted budget includes a 1.5 percent cost of living raise for county employees, excluding members of the Commissioners Court. The budget does not include any increase to the employee contributions for health insurance, while maintaining the same coverage levels.
“This is a significant feat in the face of rising health care costs across the country,” Moran said. “We are committed to our employees and their families. They are the heartbeat of all that we do.”
The budget process for Smith County begins in April, when elected and appointed officials and department heads begin to assess their needs for the coming fiscal year. The adopted budget reflects careful review and consideration of budget requests for proposed expenditures from all departments and thoughtful analysis of those requests, compared to anticipated financial resources for the coming year.
“This budget is more than a document that allots departmental funding for a new fiscal year based on assessed needs,” Moran said. “It furthers the efforts of the Commissioners Court to improve the value of service for the citizens of Smith County in a stream-lined and tax-conscious manner.”
The complete FY2020 Budget can be found on the county’s website, www.smith-county.com, in “Budget and Transparency,” under the Government Tab.