County budget

McLennan County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Ricky Armstrong (right) and county building maintenance director Herschel Miller discuss requests for the fiscal year 2018 budget with commissioners Friday.

Staff photo — Cassie L. Smith

With McLennan County department heads requesting $5.3 million in projects to be paid for out of the county’s permanent improvement fund during the 2018 budget cycle, commissioners are considering shifting tax revenue from the general fund to the permanent improvement fund.

Commissioners also pared the $5.3 million in requests down by almost $900,000 during a meeting Friday.

“This is costing taxpayers a whole lot of money,” Precinct 2 County Commissioner Lester Gibson said about the requests.

Tax rate

County tax revenue is split between three funds: the general fund, debt service, and the permanent improvement fund.

“We may need to tweak the tax rate a little bit to add some more money to this side of the pot and take a little bit out of the general fund,” County Auditor Stan Chambers said.

A few years back, commissioners shifted the tax rate structure in the other direction, favoring the general fund, Chambers said.

The shift would likely be less than a penny of the tax rate, which is 52.5293 cents per $100 of property value this year, down by a penny from 2016.

County commissioners have not decided what to set the tax rate to for the upcoming fiscal year, but a rate of 50.1603 cents per $100 of value for 2018 is projected to bring in the same revenue as this year. That projection may change when certified tax roles come in.

By the end of the meeting Friday, commissioners had tapered back the project list and moved about $883,593 worth of projects under a recently-approved bond that could cover the cost of the work. Another $21,885 worth of projects were deemed not permanent improvements and moved back to the general fund.

Archives building

The biggest request Friday was for $3.14 million in work on the county archives building.

County Administrator Dustin Chapman said the plan is to spread out the projects over six years, but County Judge Scott Felton asked that the plans be reviewed in an effort to have the work done quicker.

“It’s such an important building that’s been so poorly maintained over the years,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Jones said. “The work needs to get done now. It’s in real serious peril there I think.”

The plans include repairing leaks in the basement walls, replacing all the lighting and a complete heating, ventilation and air conditioning overhaul.

Other requests

The sheriff’s office requested $253,610 for repairs to the county jail and the sheriff’s office, include work to jail showers, roofs, sensors, floors and wall replacements.

More than $262,600 in work was requested in permanent improvements for the MHMR Center for Development Services. Part of the request includes $139,612 for a new gym roof.

“The gym roof is in horrible shape. There’s holes in it. Water does seep through quite often,” county building maintenance director Herschel Miller said.

“When that roof is not leaking you can see daylight through it,” Precinct 1 County Commissioner Kelly Snell said.

The MHMR facility also needs $118,641 in work to fix drainage problems in its courtyard, Miller said. The project is more complex that it could be, because it will be difficult to get equipment into the courtyard, he said.

The county-owned former Grand Karem Shrine building would receive a $178,428 upgrade to the parking lot, including redone asphalt, a new fence to prevent unauthorized use.

In the course of their work Friday, commissioners determined almost $900,000 from the original $5.3 million list of requests should actually fall under a recently-approved $10 million bond. They also determined almost $22,000 from the original list should be covered in the general fund.

Commissioners expect to finalize the 2018 budget by mid-August.

Cassie L. Smith has covered county government for the Tribune-Herald since June 2014. She previously worked as a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise and The Eagle in Bryan-College Station. Smith graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington.

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