Johnson County proposes 2-cent tax increase
Hopefully, victims of sexual assault in Johnson County will get their two-cents worth of attention.
Johnson County commissioners Monday adopted a proposed budget that is two cents higher than last year and includes a last-minute addition of a detective in the sheriff’s office to investigate crimes against children.
Commissioners set the ad valorem (property) tax rate at 0.47200 — or 47 cents — per $100 valuation for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
The motion to approve the rate was made by Precinct 4 Commissioner Larry Woolley and seconded by Precinct 1 Commissioner Rick Bailey. In a roll call voice vote, it was supported unanimously by County Judge Roger Harmon, Precinct 2 Commissioner Kenny Howell and Precinct 3 Commissioner Jerry Stringer.
Public hearings on the tax rate will be held at 9 a.m. on Mondays Aug. 28 and Sept. 11 in Room 210 of the Johnson County Courthouse in Cleburne. The rate and budget will be voted on Sept. 18.
The addition of the detective did not increase the tax rate. Instead, the compensation — between $43,000-$50,000 — will be taken from surplus that was in the proposed budget, County Auditor J.R. “Kirk” Kirkpatrick said.
“I now have a balanced budget to propose,” Kirkpatrick said.
The need for the detective arose after recent controversy over year-old cases where a confessed preditor was not arrested because of workloads. The alleged preditor re-offended while the investigation was in progress.
Prior to voting on the tax rate, Harmon ceased the regular session and called for a workshop session to discuss his concerns about the need for an additional investigator.
“The sheriff is doing a good job since his election, and we always want to meet the needs of our citizens,” Harmon said. “We’re tight on our budget this year, but sheriff, would it help to fund another detective for your office?”
“Yes,” Sheriff Adam King replied.
“I’ll support that,” Harmon said. “You know I am (financially) conservative, but this is important. This county will continue to grow. It’s my recommendation to do it and now is a good time to do it.”
The tax rate is the total of a maintenance and operation tax of .406872 cents, a debt rate of .034828, and precinct farm to market lateral road rate of .030300, Kirkpatrick said.
Even with the 2-cent increase, commissioners were still frustrated.
“There’s good news and bad news,” Woolley said. “The increase is very minimal, we have a balanced budget, but we’re trimmed more than $6 million in the last two years in a county that is faced with oncoming growth. I hope next year were in a better place financially. Every department made compromises, and I hope and pray for a better situation next year.”
“(Money for) Raises for our employees weren’t’ there,” he said. “If we had the money, we’d reward them.”
“I‘d like to thank our elected officials and department heads for holding expenses down,” Harmon said. “In some cases, some department heads had open positions they did not fill and that helped us. It was really a total team effort with everyone coming together in difficult financial times to help us arrive at this tax rate.”
In the preceding business portion of the agenda, commissioners reduced the speed limit to 25 mph from 40 mph on Canyon Ridge Drive, Breezeway Drive, Windridge Drive, Hillview Drive, Winding Way and Grassland Drive in a subdivision on the west side of Precinct 2.
“There’s lots of children in the area and motorists are using these routes as a connection to other routes,” Howell said. “We need to slow them down for the safety of the children.”
Also in preceding business, commissioners supported a recommendation by Purchasing Agent Ralph McBroom of a ranking of firms being considered for architectural services at the Burleson Sub-Courthouse. The rankings are: 1, Komatsu; 2, Hahnfeld, Hoffer, Stanford; 3, Eikon; 4, Randall Scott; 5, GSBS Architects, and 6, Callahan & Freeman.