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Trust resolution, debt report at Burnet County commissioners meeting

Burnet County Jail

The largest portion of the Burnet County Fiscal Year 2022 budget — 34 percent — goes to public safety, which includes all law enforcement, the Burnet County Jail, and all expenses involved. File photo

Burnet County commissioners put the finishing touches on issues from past meetings and reappointed members to several entities before hearing a report from Burnet County Auditor Karin Smith on the county’s debt load at the Commissioners Court meeting Tuesday, Dec. 7. 

“You’re ending the year strong,” Smith said in her report. “You’re ending the year with very good fund balances that are all within the general reserve fund policies.” 

Before hearing the budget report — explained later in this story —commissioners approved a resolution presented at its Nov. 30 meeting by the Highland Lakes Crisis Network. 

The “Resolution Affirming a Community-Wide Trust Initiative” was approved unanimously by commissioners after it was read into the record by Burnet County Judge James Oakley. The resolution states that Burnet County supports the work of the Crisis Network, collectively desires to create a positive impact on the lives and futures of people in the area, and believes “a movement centered around knowing one another, listening to one another, and caring for one another creates a strong foundation for a community committed to trusting one another.” 

“Whereas the difficult combination of events occurring on the national and international stages, coupled with local challenges arising from these events as well as the more general problems associated with growth and change impacting our beautiful area, has led to a breakdown of personal interaction and an increase in instances of mistrust; and

“Whereas, the movement seeks to restore and reestablish trust as a core community principle to enrich the lives and interactions of current and future residents; 

“Therefore, be it resolved, that Burnet County requests that its citizens and stakeholders affirm the community trust initiative.” 

Commissioners also voted to reappoint the following board members: 

  • to the Burnet County Hospital Authority board, Dr. Amy van Dorfy, Charity Taber, and Cary Johnson;
  • to Emergency Services District No. 6 (Marble Falls), Robyn Richter;
  • to ESD No. 9 (Spicewood), Karen Bruett and Randy Steele;
  • and to ESD No. 1 (Horseshoe Bay), David Johnson.

Action on setting up a sexual assault response team as required by new state legislation was delayed while the county explores partnering with other counties on a regional team. The team is led by a district attorney and is similar to work done through the Hill Country Children’s Advocacy Center.

“There’s a similar law for children,” County Attorney Eddie Arredondo said. “People began noticing that the ones for children were working, so why not do the same thing for adult victims of sexual assault?”

Assignments to the team will be made once plans for setting up a regional group are worked out. 

In introducing the budget presentation by Auditor Smith, Oakley said he had asked her to put together the information because, “with the start of the political season, people want to start rumors.”

“Some monitoring of the grapevine produced the need to clarify issues,” he said. 

Smith gave commissioners a 10-page handout with graphs comparing general fund and debt service from fiscal years 2017 to 2021, the tax rate history from fiscal years 2013 to 2022, and comparing debt ratios and per-capita debt between area counties and cities. 

In terms of tax rate history, the tax rate has remained steady over time, she pointed out. 

“We’ve been staying below the 0.4 range over the years, and that is very, very level,” she said. 

Debt per capita in Burnet County is at $589.85 compared to Lampasas County at $808.73, Williamson County at $1,045.79, and Llano County at $388.62.

“Obviously, counties use debt service as a tool,” said Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Don Dockery. “We are doing long-term road improvement projects with short-term debt. Those roads are here long after the seven years it takes to pay off the debt.” 

Smith did have one suggestion for improvement: requiring a formal, written long-term planning improvement document for capital expenditures. 

“We do this at budgetary time but not a formal written one,” Smith said. “We need a written document. Cities are required to do it, but counties are not. It’s good to have. Debt management and capital planning go hand in hand.”