A Broad View by Jerry Hogan: Update on Rockwall County budget process

ROCKWALL COUNTY, TX (Aug. 31, 2022) It’s that time of year again when all the taxing units in the county start the process of preparing their annual budget for the upcoming year.

Rockwall County, itself, has a well-defined process that is used each year. Two draft budgets are prepared by the County Judge; analyzed by the Commissioners Court and made available for public scrutiny, before a final budget and tax rate is achieved. The first draft budget is now available on the county web site. Additionally, a proposed tax rate, along with salaries of all elected officials, has also been recently published.

Some observations:

First, the county over the last eight years has done an outstanding job of reducing their tax rate. The rate in place eight years ago was slightly over 39 cents per $100 of assessed value of our homes. The recommended rate for this coming year is slightly over 29 cents per $100 valuation:

a reduction of 10 cents in eight years, or 25%. Bravo!!

A public hearing on the proposed tax rate will be held at 9 a.m. September 13 in the old courthouse. Any citizen has the right to address the tax rate or the proposed budget at that time.

An initial review of the 1st draft budget also shows the goal of making employment in the county a favorable choice for individuals wishing to make a life career. There are now significant opportunities for advancement as well as a salary structure that is very competitive with industry.. This coming year, for example, all employees, other than elected officials, will be given a 7% cost of living increase. In addition, because of the “pay for performance” personnel policy, outstanding employees can earn an additional 3%. Elected officials will gain a 4% increase, which will have many of these individuals earning over $100,000 per year when car allowance is included.

The total bond debt as of Jan1, 2023 will be $132,010,000. The total proposed budget in the 1st Draft is $44,495,860; an increase of $2,619,520, or 6% more than the FY 2022 budget.

One anomaly which stands out when looking at proposed salaries is that of the Human Resource Director. The posted salary for this year was $93,888 which was raised mid-year to $100,000. The proposed salary is $107,475. This salary is only exceeded by the County Sheriff and surpasses all other county elected officials. One wonders what is so important about this position that makes it almost the highest paid position in the county!

On the Capital side of the budget, about $2 million is included for the construction of two additional courtrooms in the new courthouse. These courtrooms have always been in the final plan for this building with construction being held until the need was reached for the additional rooms.

Money is also included for the finish out of all the remaining work needed to complete the new jail system. $20 million is available for the construction of the new planned annex to be built adjacent to the library and courthouse. Plans are now proceeding to award the contract for this work by the end of this year.

Hopefully, the other taxing units in the county will approach a tax reduction as favorable as that proposed by Rockwall County. Remember, with the increased property assessments we all saw this year, the hope for keeping our individual property tax payments reasonable rests with the ability of the taxing units to adjust their tax rate to modify the increase in assessments. Rockwall County has shown it can be done; now its up to the school boards and the town councils to duplicate this effort!

Submitted Letter to the Editor/Guest Column contributed by Jerry Hogan, a former Rockwall County Judge. He can be reached at jerryhogan@sbcglobal.net or 214-394-4033.

Views expressed in Letters to the Editor are the opinion of sourced authors.


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