Storm and state hamper Llano County budgeting

2018 Central Texas flood

As Llano County commissioners begin the budget process for the upcoming fiscal year, the October flood still looms large over considerations. The county has spent more than $1.2 million on damage caused by the flood. Flood waters from Buchanan Dam (seen here) and the Llano River converged in Kingsland and wreaked havoc on both river systems. File photo courtesy of Martelle Luedecke

STAFF WRITER JARED FIELDS

In developing the upcoming 2019-20 budget, Llano County officials have had to take into account a number of obstacles.

First, the county has spent more than $1.2 million in reserve funds since the October 2018 flood and is unsure when, and how much, will be recaptured from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Second, the state Legislature’s Senate Bill 2 takes effect next year, requiring city and county governments hold an election if they wish to increase property tax revenue more than 3.5 percent from the previous year. For decades, the threshold for an election has been an increase above 8 percent.

“Everybody understands that our mandated expenditures go up at least 2.5 to 3 percent every year,” said Llano County Auditor Cindy Lent during the county’s budget workshop meeting July 8. “If we want anything extra — salaries or buildings or structures — it’s going to be a challenge going forward.”

Llano County has a plan to address the coming effects of SB2 — nearly $4 million in tax notes that shift financial obligations from the general fund to debt service.

“By doing that, we are close to getting revenues close to expenditures,” Lent said.

The early budget proposal estimates $15,449,868 in revenues and $16,383,115 in expenditures, leaving an ending fund balance of $3,827,901.

Judge Ron Cunningham’s budget proposal called for $2.5 million in tax notes to pay off vehicles and equipment over a seven-year period so those costs wouldn’t count against the county’s maintenance and operations (M&O) rate.

“Llano (County) has been fortunate not to have (a debt payment) in a long time,” Cunningham said.

Officials are also floating the idea of wrapping road paving projects into the tax notes.

“I’m spending so much trying to keep those dirt roads intact that I can’t pave them,” said Precinct 2 Commissioner Linda Raschke.

Judge Cunningham also said the proposed budget helps with his goal of increasing the county employee’s minimum wage from $12 an hour to almost $13 an hour.

“It’s not just a pay raise, it’s bumping up the scale,” he said.

The county’s next budget workshop will be July 22 after the regular Commissioners Court meeting.

Cunningham said at that meeting, department heads and others who want to address the commissioners court will have an opportunity to discuss budget needs or questions.

Budget discussions will continue through the summer until it is adopted in September. The county’s fiscal year runs from October 1 to September 30.

jared@thepicayune.com

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