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Smith County Commissioners 2015 budget has some uneasy


POSTED: Tuesday, August 26, 2014 - 4:31pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, August 27, 2014 - 5:32pm

In a 3 to 2 vote, the Smith County Commissioners passed the 2015 budget and property tax rate. The approved budget will raise property taxes, fund two county administrative positions and increase employee benefits. But, some East Texans and even a couple of commissioners don't agree with some items on the $83 million budget. As Precinct Two Commissioner Cary Nix puts it, the commissioners have a difference of opinion here.

"When I ran for this job, I believed in limited government and in my opinion, we're growing government here," said Commissioner Nix.

In the budget, there is more than $100,000 set aside for two county administrative positions or budget officers. Commissioner Nix said that money should be spent on other necessary items like roads and bridges.

"I know it's a difficult job the judge has to get three people to vote for a budget, I don't agree with his position, I got to vote for my convictions and that's the way I feel."

But, Judge Joel Baker said nothing is set in stone just yet, but he believes it's necessary in county government to have a clear hierarchy and the commissioners and the judge are not administrators.

"I believe in a county like ours that we are legislative, policy and decision makers, that is our primary function. It's the role of an administrator to make the micro-management type decisions for each department that's not our role," said Judge Baker.

But, President of Grassroots America Ernie Clark agrees with Commissioner Nix and Commissioner Terry Phillips, they don't support the county administration plan.

"These guys ran for public office. They were elected by the public, they are the administrators of the county," said Clark.

The budget also increases the property tax rate to 33 cents from about 32 cents per 100 dollar valuation. A tax bill on a $100,000 home will go up $6.44, which would raise about $2 million in property tax revenue than last year. Judge Baker said that tax increase as well as a one time transfer of $2 million, will fund major county road projects. That one time transfer and the property tax increase would give the road and bridge department about $3 million in additional funds compared to last year. Judge Baker said this is extremely necessary to take care of the growth we're experiencing in Smith County.

"This just brings us up to funding levels that we've experienced years before when we had financial downturn in the economy. It's getting a shot in the arm, looking forward to the projects, we're going to experience for years to come and I thought it was necessary to put it in place and at least some of the commissioners court agreed with that," said Judge Baker.

But, this has some East Texans concerned and wonder if the commissioners can spend this more than $3 million efficiently.

The budget also provides funding for 19 new positions, 12 are in the Sheriff's Office.

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Judge Joel Baker needs to understand why we elect county commissioners to REPRESENT us. They are the stewards of our tax dollars. Why do we need county commissioners if we are just going to spend taxpayer dollars hiring people to decide what to spend taxpayer money on? I guess it's easy to raise taxes and spend other people's money. However, in today's economy, most people don't have a lot to spare and the $100,000 would have been better used on infrastructure. NOT growing government.

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