Key takeaways from State of the County address

County Judge Ben Zeller revealed the finalized details of the 2019 County Budget during his State of the County address.

Zeller says the county was able to maintain a healthy $59 million budget despite declining property tax revenue due to Hurricane Harvey. The budget will also include a $39 million dollar General Fund, which is used to pay for most programs the county approve. The county will use $16 million dollars of the budget to support the VCSO with new patrol cars and equipment. The county will also provide a 3% stipend to all county employees. Zeller adds the budget will meet residents needs without raising taxes.

“It’s a balanced budget that meets all our needs without increasing taxes. So, we consider that a big accomplishment in this climate and we’re real happy to be able to do that.”

Zeller says the county’s 3.959% tax rate will save taxpayers about $750,000 dollars over the previous year. All of this was possible despite declining revenue from the county jail and property tax revenue.

During his address, County Judge Zeller also revealed the county’s efforts to abolish unfunded mandates were rejected at the state level. Unfunded mandates, Zeller explained, force Texas counties to enact mandates and pay for them using local taxpayer dollars. County Judge Zeller said, despite support from Representative Geanie Morrison to abolish unfunded mandates, the effort was rejected by the Texas State Senate, leaving the county back at square one.

“Some of those mandates are not bad ideas. Just because something is an unfunded mandate, doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea or a waste. But, what it does mean is that the local community does not have control over those expenditures. And, certainly, we need to tie accountability and transparency back to government spending.”

Zeller adds the county will work with the Association of Counties to renew their efforts to abolish or reduce the burden of unfunded mandates on taxpayers during the state’s January legislative session.