County tax hike approved despite strong opposition



Weldon Cude, a five term (one unexpired), Atascosa County Commissioner from 1988-2010 spoke to the commissioners at the Sept. 17 public hearing on the 2021 proposed tax increase.

Weldon Cude, a five term (one unexpired), Atascosa County Commissioner from 1988-2010 spoke to the commissioners at the Sept. 17 public hearing on the 2021 proposed tax increase.

Atascosa County Commissioners approved and adopted the 2021 budget and 2020 tax rate during the third and final public hearing held at the Atascosa County Courthouse.

The property tax rate was voted unanimously to be approved and adopted at a tax rate of $.569454, which is effectively a 2.9763% increase over the no-new-revenue tax rate of $0.552995.

Three public hearings were held prior to adopting the tax increase which had an initial proposed rate of $.579454 per $100 of value – a 16.4% increase over the prior rate of $.497794 as was stated in a public notice from the county.

During the public hearing Monday, the Atascosa County General Property Tax Rate was set and adopted at $0.437633. The 2020 Tax Rate for Atascosa County Farm to Market Lateral Road was set and adopted at $.089381. The 2020 Tax Rate for Atascosa County Debt Service – interest and sinking property tax rate – was set and adopted at $.042440.

The totals of the proposed 2021 budget as of Friday according to the Atascosa County Judge’s office was Income, $41,872,250.21 and Expense, $41,872,250.21. The 2020 budget was Income, $43,541,591.80 and Expense, $43,541,591.80.

There was much opposition from the public at the public hearings with citizens pleading for the county commissioners to please consider deeper budget cuts. Several ranchers and business owners said that their revenue had fallen more than 40% since the pandemic and drop in oil prices causing them to have to lay off employees and lose major sources of income.

“The general discussion indicated the population felt we were receiving additional funds because of a tax increase,” stated Commissioner Stuart Knowlton, Precinct 2. “This is not true. It’s the quirk of the law. When valuations go down, the tax rate goes up to generate the same level of income; and when valuations go up the opposite occurs, the tax rate goes down to accomplish the same task.”

During the first two public hearings, Judge Hurley stated that he becomes defensive over the budget work done by county commissioners, county auditor and county staff who he said worked diligently to cut the 2021 proposed budget.

At the final hearing on Monday, Judge Hurley said that during the budgeting process some $5 million total had been cut from the budget with the final $400,000 just occurring due to the recent “Public Defenders” grant.

Judge Hurley stated Monday that he would have County Auditor Tracy Barrera give a detailed publishing of all the cuts that were made to the budget in the near future because he said the public deserved to have that information.

Some of the county budget cuts mentioned to date included:

• Temporarily cut 12 employees, by attrition, from the county payroll for a $550,000 savings

• For 2021, the commissioners cut more than $2 million from road and bridge budgets

• Other departments made cuts totaling $1 million dollars

• There will be no employee raises in pay or benefits for 2021

• The Public Defenders grant will save the county $400K

Hurley stated that the public defenders grant besides saving money, will radically improve indigent court legal defense. “We did get the final figures of savings to be generated by the new exciting ‘Public Defenders Grant’ we have been awarded which is a five-year grant and possibly 10 years plus,” said Judge Hurley.

Judge Hurley in two statements during the public hearings addressed the need for a tax increase at the rate proposed. “Atascosa County has been facing a severe 2021 Fiscal Year budget dilemma,” said Judge Hurley. “Our sales tax revenue is projected to be down this year over $3 million and the appraisal district gave Atascosa a reduced ad valorem inventory value of over – $400 million. What a reduced ad valorem level does is force up the effective tax rate (no new tax rate) which in effect raises taxes. What the design of this rate does is to create a rate at which the same number of dollars are created as in the previous (existing) year which the budget is written in for the coming fiscal year. When the values go down (which we have no control over) the ‘no new tax rate’ goes up. That is the nature of this ‘beastly’ state governed property tax system.”

In the Sept. 16 issue of the Pleasanton Express, Atascosa County Treasurer, Laura Pawelek, published a public notice which detailed the Atascosa County investments which total $13,878,654.50 which is the total of the county funds invested with Texpool and in the bank that earn interest.

The Principal Indebtedness totals $22,340,000 and includes the County’s three bonds (certificate of obligation) which are paid out over 10 years – this includes the bonds to pay for the Justice Center, the Jail remodel/expansion and the new JP3 building.

To view the 2021 Atascosa County budget for the period beginning Jan. 1, 2021 and ending Dec. 31, 2021, please go to www.atascosacounty.texas.gov. The amounts listed are subject to change since the budget has been finalized and tax rate set.

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