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Letter to the Editor from Rockwall County Judge David Sweet

(ROCKWALL, TX — September 29, 2017) A Rockwall Area Chamber of Commerce audience heard me comment during an Aug. 23 program that some major Rockwall County accomplishments were not made by accident.

No boast intended, but I wanted to bring home the point that our little county—the smallest in Texas—has overcome some big challenges because we plan. That’s what successful business people who were in that audience do. Developing and working those plans can deliver success to businesses—and to county government.

Planning is a primary reason we can address challenges of dramatic growth and still adopt a tax rate that’s about 3 cents lower than the current tax rate. Successful planning is a reason we can address public safety needs, upgrade salaries and make some important decisions about costly subsidy issues.

On Sept. 12, county commissioners unanimously approved the county budget for the next fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1. I will provide details of the budget in my next column.

During my presentation at the chamber of commerce luncheon, I had an opportunity to summarize project information, but there are so many other pieces to the success of Rockwall County planning efforts. The biggest piece involves transportation.

Precinct 4 County Commissioner David Magness gave a transportation project update at the meeting, highlighting current projects involving rehabilitating State Highway 66, building an Interstate 30 interchange at Farm to Market 3549 and widening of FM 740.

Planning, of course, will be important as we move forward with our transportation projects. Efforts are under way to update the Rockwall County thoroughfare plan. This plan will be coordinated with our cities. The result will be a guide for identifying and implementing long-range transportation investments in Rockwall County.

On growth, we’re a little shy of 100,000 population now, but we face buildout figures of 250,000 by most authorities and 300,000 by some. Those numbers present infrastructure challenges for Rockwall County, and for our fine Rockwall and Royse City school districts.

All the counties around us are growing, but what sets Rockwall County apart from other growing counties is that we are not growing in just one pocket. We’re growing throughout—Rockwall, Royse City, Fate, Heath and McLendon-Chisholm.

Everyone knows about Rockwall County. For us to be the smallest county in the state, everyone knows our story. They know what we’re going through with growth, and they know of our successful planning efforts over the last 20 years.

Even though I will provide details of the county’s 2018 budget in my next column, I want to point out now that we’ve set a 2017 tax rate of .349831 per $100 valuation for Fiscal Year 2018. The rate is almost 3 cents lower than the current rate.

By state law, in a county our size, the county judge has the responsibility of preparing the first draft of the budget and then presenting it to Commissioners Court. I’m very proud commissioners unanimously approved the lower proposed tax rate based on the first draft of the $32 million operating budget that I prepared and presented.

The tax rate is the effective rate, which is the total rate needed to raise the same amount of property tax revenue for the county from the same properties in both the 2016 and 2017 tax years.

We will not cut services.

We are fiscally conservative, but we can’t—and won’t—ignore the needs in our county. Our citizens want to know how we’re spending their tax dollars, and they have expectations in terms of quality of life and services provided. We cannot ignore them.

Submitted by Rockwall County Judge David Sweet.

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