Marble Falls, Burnet, Kingsland, Llano, Spicewood, Horseshoe Bay, and ALL of the Highland Lakes
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An additional $4.9 million for Burnet County government coffers might not be enough to meet the growing needs of a growing population, according to Burnet County commissioners, who are holding a public hearing on the proposed tax rate and budget followed by a vote at their regular meeting Tuesday, Aug. 22. The hearing will begin at 9 a.m. in the Burnet County Courthouse, 220 S. Pierce St. in Burnet.
The county released the proposed budget on Tuesday, Aug. 15, revealing a tax rate of $0.3541 per $100 property valuation, a 5.97 percent decrease from the fiscal year 2022-23 tax rate of $0.3766 per $100 valuation.
Burnet County property tax revenues have increased by 13.41 percent due to new construction and increased property appraisals from the Burnet Central Appraisal District. That increase is expected to bring in $34.3 million in revenues for the new fiscal year, up from $31.7 million in revenues in 2022-23.
County commissioners plan to use new revenues to hire additional staff and make needed upgrades, but state caps on tax revenues might prevent the county from effectively keeping up with growth, they said.
“Every new resident adds to the county’s burden,” Burnet County Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Don Dockery told DailyTrib.com. “There’s no room to cut (in the budget), and we need to be able to expand.”
A Texas law passed in 2019, Senate Bill 2, put a 3.5-percent cap on revenue increases for cities and counties on their tax bases from the previous year. The cap is to keep local governments from drastically increasing property taxes in a short time span. It also presents a challenge for governments like Burnet County that rely solely on property taxes for revenue and are experiencing rapid growth.
Dockery and County Auditor Karin Smith gave a few examples of the shortfalls in the budget:
Burnet County’s contribution to the Central Appraisal District increased 11.5 percent from last year.
Health insurance costs went up 6.5 percent.
Pedernales Electric Cooperative rates went up 6.2 percent.
Software costs went up 5 percent.
The Sheriff’s Office budget went up 10 percent.
The Burnet County Library System’s budget went up 17 percent.
County departments across the board requested a total of 31 percent in budget increases that were not approved.
These cost increases are mostly due to new staff hires, equipment upgrades, cost-of-living salary increases, predicted overtime costs, and increased services to meet growing needs.
The county’s population has grown 7.75 percent over the past three years. The Burnet County Development Services Office has created 1,450 new addresses since 2022, and the number of wells being drilled in the county annually has nearly doubled since 2018.
The county’s budget can be supplemented by taxes on new construction the first year those structures are built, giving a reprieve to the budget as long as new construction continues.
Burnet County received $1.7 million in revenues from its $4.9 million increase in revenues from taxes on new construction. Dockery and Smith warned that any lulls in new construction down the line could further hinder the county’s ability to keep up with the demands of growth.
“The new construction really helps us, but if it dies off, that’s when it will really hurt,” Dockery warned.