Breckenridge Texan

Stephens County Commissioners approve 2021 budget and tax rate, lift burn ban

Stephens County Commissioners approve 2021 budget and tax rate, lift burn ban
September 15
12:50 2020

By Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan

Stephens County commissioners adopted the 2021 fiscal-year budget and tax rate at their regular meeting Monday, Sept. 14. They also lifted the county-wide burn ban that was put in place in May and then reinstated in August.

Budget

During the meeting, commissioners approved a budget of $5,567,434.90 for the 2021 fiscal year. County Judge Michael Roach said the only difference in the budget that they approved  at Monday’s meeting versus the proposed budget that had been posted in August on the county’s website was how some of the funds were allocated to different accounts.

He said, however, that the total amount of the budget had not changed; they had just moved some of the funds around into different buckets.

“The only difference between what we will vote on today and the proposed budget that’s sitting on our website currently is that fact that we moved maintenance over into the county pool. Other than that, nothing else is substantially changed from that budget,” Roach said. “The amounts didn’t change, just what buckets they’re in has changed a little bit. Just for maintenance only.”

Tax Rate

During the meeting, commissioners also approved the 2021 tax rate for the county of .80. That includes a Maintenance and Operation (M&O) tax rate at .687 and an Interest and Sinking (I&S) tax rate, which is used to pay off long-term debt, of .113 for a total county tax rate of .80.

“A lot of taxing entities went to what’s called no new revenue rate. That’s getting the same amount of revenue they had last year,” Roach said before the vote. “Stephens County, as you know we’re one hundred and something thousand less in revenue with our tax rate than we were last year. And we cut $300,000 off our budget. All together we cut into 400 grand, which I think is going to hurt us this next year, but given the fact that we’re in the position we’re in, those tough decisions had to be made.”

County-wide fire ban

Also during the meeting, commissioners voted to lift the county-wide burn ban based on a recommendation by Breckenridge Fire Chief Calvin Chaney, who also serves as Fire Marshal for Stephens County.

The lifting of the burn ban means that Stephens County residents living outside the Breckenridge city limits may burn brush. It is not legal to burn trash or anything besides brush. Chaney said it is important that anybody who wants to burn brush calls the fire department before burning so they can keep track of the fires. He also said when somebody is burning they need to make sure they have any vegetation away from the burning piles.

“The ground is wet, the ground is underwater, but the grass above that is dry and it still burns. And that’s going to be this issue,” Chaney said.

He also said because the ground is wet, there is lots of mud, and fire trucks will have trouble getting into fields and pastures to fight fires. If a fire gets out of control, there’s a good chance they won’t be able to get in and fight the fire, he said.

Payroll tax deduction exemption

Commissioners also voted to opt out of the payroll tax deduction exemption for county employees that was authorized as part of an executive order by President Donald Trump.

Roach recommended they opt out of the plan like other counties in Texas have done to keep from putting a financial burden on the county employees later.

He said one issue he had with the proposed exemption was that since it was authorized by an executive order there were no guarantees that later employees wouldn’t have to pay back the taxes which would put a financial burden on them at that time.

“It doesn’t mean you’re free of the obligation to pay taxes, you’re just deferring it,” he said. “Now a lot of people feel that they (legislators) will come to some agreement and it will all be taken care of. But right now, sitting here today we don’t know that, We don’t know if it’ll be deferred it or not. The president took this executive action and it has not been cemented, if you will, or put into law by congress.”

County Treasurer Sharon Trigg said she has been monitoring her listserve and a lot of commissioners courts have been opting out of the deferral program.

 

Cutline, top photo: Stephens County Judge Michael Roach talks to the county commissioners during the Monday, Sept. 14, meeting at the Stephens County Courthouse. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

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