Homeowners would pay an average of $28 more on their Travis County property taxes under the county’s proposed budget that bumps up salaries and staffing while freeing funding to counteract part of the governor’s recent cut to the district attorney’s office.
County officials got a first look at the budget this week, which increases spending by $30.1 million to $844.3 million next year. The proposed tax rate of 49.46 cents per $100 in assessed value is less than this year’s rate of 50.01 cents. But with property values rising, most homeowners would still see a higher bill.
The county tax bill on an average-value home of $222,631 would be $1,101.13.
Commissioners will begin discussing the budget after an Aug. 6 presentation and plan to approve it Sept. 24.
About 19 percent of the increased spending comes from the $5.6 million set aside for a 3 percent raise for rank-and-file employees; elected officials have a similar raise budgeted, worth $286,000. The county gave an average 3.5 percent raise to employees in April 2012, but about a quarter of them saw no raise; the last across-the-board raise was in 2010. The budget doesn’t specify whether next year’s raises will be across-the-board.
The proposed budget also includes funding for about 35 new employees, 14.5 of which were added this past year after the previous budget was approved. Six were technology positions, and four were hired in the county attorney’s office to help with a lawsuit involving a nationwide mortgage system. Five new employees would be hired to maintain and operate the Onion Creek open space.
Budget writers turned down about $25 million in spending by the sheriff’s office, including a request for 63 employees and $2 million in work on a building’s foundation at the jail site in Del Valle. The office is receiving $7.5 million in requests in the proposed budget.
District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg canceled $450,000 in budget requests, including 4.5 new employees and a new vehicle for the office, in hope for “at least some level of replacement funding from the county for the Public Integrity Unit,” according to a memo from county officials to commissioners. If the Legislature is unable to overturn Gov. Rick Perry’s veto of the Public Integrity Unit’s funding in the final week of the special session, county commissioners will have to consider whether to fund part or all of the unit themselves.
Perry cut the unit’s funding, $3.7 million for next year, after Lehmberg refused to resign following her drunken driving arrest and conviction in April. The unit, funded by the Legislature, handles high-profile public corruption cases, typically involving state politicians, but the vast majority of its work is prosecuting tax and insurance fraud cases around the state. Lehmberg also controls a fund of forfeited assets worth $657,000 last year, according to a county auditor report published in April.
Proposed 2013-14 budget: $844.3 million, up 3.7 percent from 2012-13 budget
Proposed tax rate: 49.46 cents per $100 in assessed value, down 1.10 percent
2013-14 average home taxable value: $222,631, up 3.76 percent
Proposed 2013-14 average tax bill: $1,101.13, up 2.62 percent
What’s next: Presentation on Aug. 6; public hearings Sept. 17, Sept. 20 and Sept. 24; commissioners set to adopt budget and tax rate on Sept. 24