The Kleberg County Commissioners Court is set to vote on its proposed budget and tax rate Monday, following a public hearing and meeting this past Tuesday.

The proposed budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year is $16,013,520, an increase over last year’s budget of $15,408,133.93, although the number could change between now and Monday, County Auditor Melissa Green said on Wednesday.

Pct. 3 Commissioner Roy Cantu said although the budget is balanced, he is still going to look at some other departments in the county to make sure their items are “necessary for our budget” for the fiscal year.

Pct. 1 Commissioner David Rosse said he was in support of the budget, but questioned the lack of county employee raises to the budget.

Later in the meeting, Kleberg County Clerk Stephanie Garza and Kleberg County Tax Assessor-Collector Melissa T. De La Garza both shared concerns with the commissioners that the county was going forward with a budget that did not include pay increases for hourly county employees.

“I think that it’s too bad that the employees can’t get a raise; I do understand both sides of the coin,” Garza said. “I think that we’ve been up here plenty of times and said that ‘this and that’ needs to be done, and it doesn’t get done. So if we’re going to work on it, then we need to work at it and really aim for helping the employees move up (in wages), however we can get them up.

“For everything that these ladies do, and yet being underpaid — they still do it because they need jobs, they need the benefits and they’re there (working), and I understand that they can go anywhere they want,” Garza added. “That shows the loyalty that they have to the county, because they are there.”

“What really upsets me the most about this is that here we put in the paper that the tax increase was attributed to employees, employees’ wages, employees’ benefits and county facility infrastructure upgrades, which we are going to do,” De La Garza said. “But we specifically said that it was going to be for employees’ wages and employees’ benefits. And I just feel that we didn’t focus on that.

“And we keep on saying the same thing, that we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it and we’re going to do it, and we never do,” De La Garza added.

The Commissioners Court voted at the Aug. 12 meeting to propose a decreased county tax rate from last year’s rate of $0.78145 per $100 valuation to $0.76950 per $100 valuation.

Tax rates set are used to determine how much property tax revenue a county, city or school district will receive to help fund general operations and debt.

The rate should generate about $11,424,641 for the county in the next fiscal year, Kleberg County Tax Assessor-Collector Melissa T. De La Garza said at the Aug. 12 meeting. Because property values in the county have increased, the new rate will generate  $524,641 more in revenue than in the previous fiscal year.

At the public hearing on Tuesday, Cantu said he would prefer to lower the taxes more, but a growing need in the county led to the proposed rate.

“I think with the tax rate where we set it, which is two cents below last year’s, I realize it’s going to bring in more income,” Cantu said. “I think more additional property is being built in the county and I see it every day. And I think that’s driving us to need that money to provide services. And I’m not one for trying to raise taxes at all. But I think at this point in time, that we’ve still got things that we need to address in this county.”

Pct. 2 Commissioner Chuck Schultz said the county is “not raising taxes, we’re raising the income for the county.”

“Which is the only way the county can bring money to do the things that have to be done,” Schultz said. “I am certainly not for higher taxes, by any means, but I do know that if we don’t bring some money into the county when we can, these things will fall down between our ears.

“And again, this is really the only revenue source that we have.”

The 2019 tax rate and the budget for FY 2019-20 will be voted on at the Commissioners Court regular meeting on Monday, Sept. 9 at 9:30 a.m.

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