The hearing is scheduled during the commissioners’ 9 a.m. meeting in the county courtroom. Fowler told attendees at the initial July 31 hearing, which drew comments from only a handful of citizens, that he is recommending an increase of up to approximately 5 cents in the ad valorem rate in order to establish reserve funds.
He said the rate will not necessarily rise that much. But with legal requirements for giving early notice of a proposed tax hike, he said, his proposal allowed the county commissioners court room for raising the rate by that level.
Pct. 2 Commissioner Cole Hefner told The Mirror on Monday that as of now, he plans to vote against a tax increase. And “I don’t know how I’m going to vote on the budget,” he added.
The court is eyeing a proposed budget of about $11.5 million compared to the current fiscal year’s budget of about $11.2 million, Fowler said Monday. The court has been discussing small raises for most employees, which would be the first pay hikes for the vast majority on the county payroll in about eight years.
As for taxes, “I do believe we need a tax increase of some kind,” Fowler said during the court’s July hearing. “We need to build significant reserves now.
“We can lower the tax rate later,” the judge asserted. “If we have an emergency, we don’t have any money to pay for it.”
In a paid advertisement in a recent issue of The Mirror, the county announced that the recommended tax rate was 57.66 cents per $100 valuation, about 5 cents above the current rate of 52.23 cents.
In an article published in the July 23 Mirror, Fowler had said that since the county’s taxable valuation did not change much from last year, he expected little if any impact on the tax rate, which he said could increase or drop less than one-tenth of a cent.
But Fowler told the newspaper after the July 31 hearing that he had been talking about the “effective tax rate” — the rate which would generate the same amount of revenue as last year — rather than the rate he would propose.
Fowler said he had thought the effective rate, calculated by County Tax Assessor-Collector Sherron Laminack, would decrease. After he commented for the July 23 article, he said, he learned it increased slightly.
As for the tax rate and reserve funds, Pct. 3 Commissioner Frank Berka said at the July hearing that the county needed three-and-a-half to four months of operating funds in reserves. Pct. 1 Commissioner Paula Gentry added that Fowler’s proposed tax rate would be the same the county had in 1998.
Also at that hearing, Laminack had said she was considering closing her Gladewater branch office, which is open two days weekly. However, she said Monday thaf if the court gives her an additional employee, as included in the proposed budget thus far, the branch would remain open.
Meantime, in another matter on this Friday’s agenda, the court will consider moving a voting box from the county “rock building” in Gilmer to the Indian Rock Baptist Church on Texas 154 east of the city, said Fowler.