Finalizing the new Kerr County 2020-21 budget and tax rate filled a large part of the Sept. 14 meeting.
First, James Robles from the auditor’s office outlined the category and dollar amount changes included in the budget since they last discussed it.
Those ranged from $4,450 for the Kerr County Historical Commission (see below) to some six- and seven-figure line items related to the new multi-county Public Defenders’ Office they plan to set up.
Commissioners voted 5-0 to approve those additions and changes.
They also approved unanimously the adoption of 20 elected officials’ salaries, including their own; and noting the only changes from FY20 are “longevity increases” earned by years of service in the county system.
County Judge Robert Kelly offered the required public hearing on the FY21 budget; but no one was present or phoned in to comment or ask questions.
Tax Assessor-Collector Bob Reeves appeared before them to offer a public hearing on the Kerr County and Lateral Roads 2020 tax rate. Again, no one was present or called to make comments.
Reeves and Kelly also offered a public hearing on the proposed Lake Ingram Estates Road District; and again there was no public comment.
When Kelly called for the vote on the new FY2020-21 budget, commissioners were assured this includes a fund balance (“reserve fund”) that’s 33.6 percent of their total budget; and it includes capital projects.
Commissioners Tom Moser and Harley Belew moved and seconded to adopt the new budget with its estimated reserve balance. In the “record vote,” one by one Kelly, Belew, Moser, Jonathan Letz and Don Harris each voted yes.
The new adopted budget is posted on the Kerr County website. The summary said the grand total revenue is $34,543,195; and grand total requested expenses are $35,895,275. It also says $503,222 of the expenses will be paid from their fund balance.
For the tax rate vote, the total combined tax rate for the tax year 2020 is $0.4757 per $100 of property valuation. This also passed unanimously.
The maintenance and operations portion is $0.3870 per $100 valuation; and the interest and sinking or “debt” portion is $0.0589 per $100 valuation.
The Lateral Roads portion is $0.0298 per $100 valuation.
The agenda said the total rate doesn’t exceed the 2020 “no new revenue rate.”
Historical Commission funding
Before voting on the budget and tax rate, Belew asked colleagues to consider adding $4,500 back into the proposed budget to fund the Kerr County Historical Commission, as it has done since 1975. Though no formal request was made this year until Sept. 14, President Julie Leonard spoke to the court Monday to request funding at last year’s rate. She outlined KCHC’s activities and all-volunteer workforce, saying what they don’t spend goes back to the county; and Charlie McIlvain and court liaison Belew added their support.
Generally commissioners were in support of KCHC’s work and importance, but Kelly reminded them they were voting on a deficit budget Monday.
Moser and Belew moved to add $4,450 to the new budget for KCHC. That passed unanimously. Commissioners urged the group to search for citizen donations through their “Friends of KCHC” subgroup, and aim for self-sufficiency by this time next year.
Kerr Emergency Coordinator William “Dub” Thomas reported various providers have administered 7,886 total COVID tests in Kerr County since the pandemic began, and the results as of late August have been 458 total positive cases, presently zero hospitalizations, zero new cases, eight active cases “we are trying to wrap up,” and nine deaths.
He said as of Aug. 20, Kerr County statistics dropped below the “magic number” of 20 active cases that’s the dividing line between requiring and not requiring face masks to be worn in public. He suggested asking the Texas Governor’s office for official attestation, so the state order would not apply here. That would allow masks not to be mandatory, but the call of the employer or family.
He said there were 1,016 flu vaccinations given in a recent public clinic, in preparation for cooler, wetter weather.
Discussion followed about the necessity of wearing masks, that it takes an application to the state to change that, and Belew and other commissioners and one citizen said it’s time to dispense with masks required in common areas of the courthouse. They decided to wait another 30 days to see if spikes in virus cases appear, and have the auditor check on whether ending it affects the federal money they’re receiving for COVID-related expenses.
Recycling, waste containers, Project Barn
Separate discussions were held on, first, providing two 8-yard waste containers for livestock waste mixed with wood shavings from the 4-H Project Barn, Hill Country Youth Event Center; and second, on setting a date to officially discontinue the county’s recycling program for rural residents using trailers obtained through grant funds.
Maintenance Director Shane Evans said they cannot create a compost area with the waste in that area so close to the river; and containers to be dumped elsewhere are necessary. Commissioners approved this.
Harris said they’re still uncertain that everything they’ve sent for recycling is actually recycled by Republic Services, but area residents continue to dump both recyclables and trash in and around the trailers. He suggested closing the trailers at the end of September. Also, by Sept. 30, commissioners suggested firm answers on whether the county is released from the attached grant agreements; and if they are, the trailers could be “surplused” and sold.
Commissioners voted to move an extra emergency generator from the Law Enforcement Center to a location outside the downtown courthouse. Once reconnected, it will be a back-up generator to provide power to courthouse offices if city power fails.