Court votes to raise tax rate
Sep 30, 2012 | 3112 views | 14 14 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Upshur County Commissioners Court in separate 3-2 votes Friday raised the county’s tax rate by 4.21 cents after approving a $16 million overall budget during a lengthy, heated meeting.

After considerable discussion, the court also voted 2-1 to retain the county’s current 10.70 percent contribution level to the employee retirement fund.

County Judge Dean Fowler cast the tie-breaking votes on increasing the tax rate to 51.22 cents per $100 valuation--which had drawn protests from several citizens at two public hearings--and on the budget.

Of the $16 million budget, which is about $500,000 below the current one for the 2011-12 fiscal year, some $11.2 million is supported by county tax funds.

Fowler, Pct. 3 Comm. Lloyd Crabtree, and Pct. 4 Comm. Mike Spencer voted for the tax increase, while Pct. 2 Comm. Cole Hefner and Pct. 1 Comm. James Crittenden opposed it.

But the split was different on the budget, where Crabtree and Hefner opposed the proposal..

The court had recently voted 4-1 with Hefner opposing to recommend raising the tax rate to 51.22 cents. Fowler has said the increase would only be for only the coming 2012-13 fiscal year, and would pay off the county’s debt.

Although he voted to recommend the tax hike, Crittenden told The Mirror that “after much consideration, I had second thoughts” about supporting it, leading to his voting against it Friday. While he voted for the proposed 2012-13 budget Friday, he said there were “other areas we probably could have cut in.”

The split votes came during a 3-hour, 10-minute meeting where a woman stormed out and used salty language in scolding the court after Fowler threatened to remove her from the proceedings for speaking up without permission from the audience.

Much of the meeting involved a presentation from Roxanne Bita of the Texas County and District Retirement System of how it works. Hefner has touted reducing employees’ contribution to their retirement from seven percent of their paycheck to four percent on grounds that would save the county money.

He said at Friday’s meeting that lowering the percentage to four percent, and the county’s match from 2-1 to 1-1, would save hundreds of thousands of dollars while forcing county employees to only pay $13,000 extra in taxes.

Fowler said Hefner’s proposal would save about $364,000, telling Hefner that “our payroll is not what you think it is.”

Each employee has his/her own individual fund to which they contribute seven percent of their pay. The county has its own overall retirement fund, in which it puts 10.7 % of all employees’ salary combined as a match, according to Hefner.

When a worker retires either at age 60, after 30 years service, or when their years of service plus age equals 75, they get a 2-1 match from the county of whatever they have put aside, Hefner said. That is, if they saved $100,000, they get $200,000 from the county, he said.

The county has to guarantee a seven percent return and can do so only with tax dollars, Hefner told The Mirror, adding “I think the world of our county employees...but in the times that we’re in, we have to be realistic on what we can afford.”

However, Fowler said during the meeting “the county employees are living in an atmosphere of fear, anger” over what might happen in the new budget. He said several employees had recently left the Sheriff’s Office, and expressed fear of becoming “a training ground for other counties.”

The tax increase, he said, amounts to 6.99 percent.

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Taxes and more Taxes
October 01, 2012
No only have to make up for mis management here in the county.. we also have it with the state and the feds...

Take a look at what could happen next year if the sorry congress do not do their jobs:

US Households Face $3,446 Tax Increase From Fiscal Cliff

Monday, 01 Oct 2012 01:16 PM

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inShare inShare0 U.S. households are facing an average tax increase of $3,446 in 2013 if Congress doesn’t avert the so- called fiscal cliff, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center said in a study released today.

The top 1 percent of households face some of the largest tax increases in 2013 and would see their after-tax incomes fall by 10.5 percent if Congress does nothing. That would translate to an average tax increase of $120,537 for that group.

A typical middle-income household earning between about $40,000 and $60,000 would face a tax increase of about $2,000.

After the Nov. 6 election, Congress is scheduled to return to Washington to debate the automatic spending cuts and tax increases starting in January unless lawmakers act. For calendar year 2013, taxes would increase by $536 billion, or about 20 percent.

“This is a very large tax increase,” Donald Marron, the center’s director, told reporters in Washington today.

If Congress does nothing, tax rates on income, capital gains, dividends and estates would increase, and the alternative minimum tax would spread to 21.7 million households, up from 4 million this year.

The top statutory tax rate on ordinary income would reach 39.6 percent, up from 35 percent, and the top rate on capital gains would be 23.8 percent, up from 15 percent. A 2 percentage point payroll tax cut is set to expire at the end of 2012.

Read more on U.S. Households Face $3,446 Tax Increase From Fiscal Cliff

There you go folks.. we are getting it from all sides... It is time to VOTE OUT ALL LIFERS... EVERYWHERE, because look what they have done..

True or Lie?
October 01, 2012
Hey Fire Em.. my question is this.. one lame duck changed his vote.. why? bet him and and the other one flip, and crabtree lost...

Sure funny they gave them selves raises.. and not the employees...

Again, mismanagement.. Foul up.. needs to go.. How much longer does he have... I guess spencer.. being in the click... had to vote for the increase as well.. sounds like to me he is going to be a big problem in the future... just might have to cut him loose as well..
October 03, 2012
Actually the commissioners and the judge never received a raise unless the rest of the county workers also received one. In fact, one time, the workers got a raise and those guys didn't.
True or Lie?
October 01, 2012
REMEMBER THIS STATEMENT: Fowler has said the increase would only be for only the coming 2012-13 fiscal year, and would pay off the county’s debt.

enough said!
Fire Em
October 01, 2012
Old Foul Up will find another way to screw Gilmer after the air on this has cleared. If you think it will just be for a year you are smoking the same thing they are. I'm more than happy to pay the tax increases so these poor, overworked county employees can live off the poverty level wages they receive. Bless their hearts they all mean so well and try so hard. They are working for the county out of the goodness of their hearts. NOT!!!!!! I agree with the rest of the people here. If they don't like their wages and benefits then go to work somewhere else. I should not have to pay extra tax dollars so you can sit on your behind working for the county. Fire half of the county and the other half will start working alot harder to keep their jobs that they hate so much!
September 30, 2012
To Hmmm: I believe Fowler is making over 70,000 a year plus all the benefits. Not in the 40,000 range. But like I have read before why would an attorney be working as a county judge in Gilmer and not as an attorney? Did something happen to him in his law practice and that is the reason he is in this job? He's not very good at the county judge job so he must have been terrible as an attorney. My taxes have climbed and I have sold off property to keep from having to pay the taxes. I agree that Upshur County is not the place to live in or to spend your money in anymore thanks to people like this that mismanage the taxpayers money.
See Ya Later
October 03, 2012
Public records show Uphsur County pays Fowler a little more than $46000. He IS working as an attorney. Nothing happened in his law office, it is still open and he is still the name on the door.
October 03, 2012
Seems like you need to get your facts straight SellinLand. I checked it out. Fowler does have a law office and it is open. I asked the treasurer and he is actually paid $41,160 from the county. Whether you agree with any of this or not, WHY LIE ABOUT IT? Tell the truth!
September 30, 2012
I agree with Taxed and no benefits. If the employees dont like what is offered then they need to go somewhere else. Big business is cutting benefits and employees trying to stay afloat and Fowler should follow their lead. I've never been in a government office where half of the people were not playing around, talking and doing everthing but their job. Everyone gets a job description and knows what the job is going to be like. No one has to stay at a job they dont like. I think Employee Advocate is just that, another government emplohyee taking the taxpayers for a ride hidden behind the print. If the job is as terrible as Employee Advocate says then I would have the intellegence to leave and find a better job. Why the big fight to keep benefits if the job is so terrible? A clean out of government employees would probably be a refreshing happening in gilmer. People that actually want the job would then work there. Lots of people are out of work so I think these people ought to be grateful that they have a job. There's probably more qualified people in the unemployment lines right now, than are currently in the government positions. Those in the unemployment lines would jump at those jobs and replace those that are disgruntled yesterday. Think about that. As for Fowler he is doing a job that any bubba in gilmer is qualified to do. I believe he has a law degree so this job ought to be childs play for him. However his lack of leadership in the kanagaroo court leads me to think he is actually challenged by the job and that worries me and the rest of the taxpayers of upshur county. Hey Taxed and no benefits lets call up Hefner and get him to run for Fowlers job at the next election. He is an experienced business man and has common sense. Now thats something rare in gilmer.
Just don't understan
September 30, 2012
Fowler, blames it on mineral values dropping... I CALL it MISMANAGEMENT!

We all not that minerals have been falling around here for the past 4 or 5 years... Really?

Then you also have two Lame Ducks saying we should be taxed. I say the new year can not get here soon enough.. and we can say good bye to those two..

When the time comes, need a new judge, and some other commissioners as well..

You watch, next year.. we will not see a drop in the tax rate either.... and our roads will not be any better... and more than likely the employees of the county will go another year with out a raise... but you can bet, the judge and the commissioners will get one in the end again...

I say it is time to break the polical game in gilmer, Upshur County... Only the people of the county can make a difference... So I call on each and every one... Hold the County RESPONSIBLE for their actions... Vote out all the lifers.. get new blood in office.. and the new ones this year, if they do not perform, run the out of office as well...

another thing, better what that APPRAISL BOARD.. cause they have already out priced the land around here...

Just My thoughts on the Matter!
Taxed & no benefits
September 30, 2012
Fowler expresses a fear that we might become a "training ground" for other counties. Employees are living in atmosphere of fear and anger over what might happen in the new budget. No one is forcing the employees to work at their jobs, if they do not like the job and benefits, then they are welcome to leave and go somewhere else. If they were as good as they think they are they would not be doing what they are doing in Gilmer. They would go to a bigger city near Gilmer and earn "what they think they are worth." They are staying in Gilmer because no other city will give them this outlandish benefits package. Well, we began a training ground for Fowler learning how to play county judge, so what's the difference? He has embarrassed the city in the media and has done some major screw ups that have kept Gilmer as the laughing stock of east Texas. He managed to get himself a nice raise, so why not raise taxes to keep the employees on his side? It's a shame Hefner is not the judge. He has common sense and is looking out for the public. Fowler is just playing favorites and trying to maintain his position with those he has to work with. The retirement benefits for the employees are ridiculous as is the tax rate. In these economic times it would be smarter to cut benefits, employees to lessen debt. Instead the Gilmer buddy system comes into play - what a surprise this was.
Employee Advocate
September 30, 2012
Actually, most counties do offer this outlandish benefits package. Actually, they have cut employees...last year and this year too I believe. The benefits are what keep the employees from going elsewhere. For anyone who has not worked as a public servant is not a gravy "desk job". Government employees take a lot of verbal abuse and handle many difficult people. In many offices, there is a lot more work to be done than time to do it. Everybody wants something, all the time. When people come to a county office for help, they are not there because they want to be; they are there because they have to be. Many of them automatically present a bad attitude because they resent the circumstances they are under. They are there because their road is in bad shape, their neighbor's dog killed their calf, they got a speeding ticket, they need to get someone committed, or they got caught with drugs, they want to visit someone in jail, they are going through a divorce, ...the list goes on and on. The stress levels are exponential when you are serving the public who really doesn't want to need your service to begin with. County offices can't put signs up that say "we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone." These employees rarely get a raise, there is no room for promotion, the longevity plan is pitiful, and they receive constant abuse from the public. Now you want to take away from their retirement. Any other place where employees "pay was cut" which is exactly what is being asked of the commissioners is going to suffer with loss of experienced employees and a big drop in morale for the ones that do stay. What kind of people do you want handling your affairs when you need service from local government? And give Fowler a break. His job is certainly not a walk in the park either.
September 30, 2012
Employee Advocate,

Well if the two lame ducks and the judge and a couple of others would have not taken their raise to 40 plus g's a year.. and gave the employees of the county a raise.. then it would be different.. I mean REALLY?

Yes people want what they are paying for.. that is good roads, good services and so when you do not receive these.. Yes, I one of those pissed off people..

And in the last four years my taxes have over doubled.. and I own less land the I did before.. so you tell me why I should not be angry?

Give out of TOUCH Fowler a break... Humm you must be one of those whom is a member of the buddy system.. Just like the post above..

Upshur County.. Is the JOKE of counties in north east TEXAS.. and believe me if I could fine me a sucker that wants to live here, I could not dump this place on them fast emough...
September 30, 2012
to the employee advocate...

When you pay taxes, and when the have gone up over twice the rate and you own less property now than you did.. there is some thing wrong !

Our roads are at or near there all time worst.. we have a engeer for what? all he is, is a glory fide book keeper so those over paid commissioners and judge don't have to do any thing...

so, people in this county have a right to be mad when they go down there.. cause of MISMANAGEMENT!

Fowler... is so out of touch.. Really ? you must be one that is in on the buddy system...

I call on each person that lives in the stink hole county to Be sure to HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE.. cause I will bet the farm.. taxes will go up again next year or stay the same..

as we still have some work to do to rid our selves of the crooks, party jumpers and lairs that are in office right now...

Better watch that apprail board too.. This is not in town.. plus what does gilmer have to offer? I mean really? wal mart.. aka china mart.. this wal mart is higher than any wal mart in longview.. so it is a joke..

wished I never bought any thing in UPSHUR COUNTY!

so why do you buy me out... so I can leave.. Really..