Commissioners adopt 2020 budget, set tax rate

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By ANTHONY FLORES

GEORGETOWN — The Williamson County Commissioner’s Court voted unanimously last week to approve the 2021 proposed budget of $394,690,355, a slight increase over the previous budget of $393,843,886, and only very subtle changes to the current budget.

“The most notable differences from last year to now are the transfer of positions from one department to another,” said County budget officer Ashlie Koenig. “The court said they did not want to add to our headcount, so instead, they looked at needs around the county and moved positions around to meet those needs.”

Four of the six positions transferred were in support of the county’s pretrial program that allows people navigating the justice system to work while awaiting trial.

“I think one of the things that Commissioner (Valerie) Covey brought forward was our pretrial program and getting that staffed,” said Pct. 2 Commissioner Cynthia Long. “It’s a really cool program that has helped our individuals going through the justice system. It allows them to make bail, be supervised pretrial if necessary, and make sure that individuals have the opportunity to continue to work and not sit in jail while awaiting a trial. It’s a very helpful program. They have to be low risk.”

The new General Fund budget is $222,981,680. Following the mandate to take a conservative approach to this year’s budget, commissioners determined the best way to aid departments in need of more employees was to move positions from one department to another based on need. A total of six positions were shifted.

The court approved a tax rate of $0.458719 per $100 of valuation along with the budget. The adopted tax rate is comprised of the General Fund, Road and Bridge Fund, and Debt Service Fund tax rates.

The Road and Bridge Fund budget is $44,862,760, and the Debt Service Fund budget is $126,845,915. This includes $25 million to pay down debt early.

“The Commissioners Court has made paying down debt a priority as part of our annual budget process. Over 20 years, Williamson County has saved more than $135.6 million in interest through its efforts to pay off debt early and refinancing,” said Covey.

Part of the conservative approach to the budget included no increases in pay for county employees. One of the most significant changes from the proposed budget to this approved budget is law enforcement and corrections step pay increase of two percent and up to two percent merit earned, lump-sum payments for civilian employees.

“Initially they talked about not funding any increases, and what ended up happening is they found the money,” said Koenig. “They reduced the budget by $1.4 million to be able to fund a two percent lump-sum merit for civilian employees. The policy says you can give anywhere from zero to five percent, but what was funded was two percent.”

Raises for civilian employees will be determined by department heads and managers based on performance reviews.

“HR strongly encourages doing performance reviews for every employee, and the merit is there based on performance the prior year,” said Koenig. “It’s up to managers and department heads to look at if they want to give zero percent or up to five percent. It’s at their discretion.”

With a reserved approach by the commissioners, the budget is seeing an increase of only .00214 percent.

“In a typical year, you will see on average about a five percent increase,” said Koenig. “If we had a five percent increase, you would have been looking at almost a $20 million increase, and we’re only at an $800,000 increase.”

The adopted 2021 budget is available for residents to review on the Budget Office website and can be found under the “Budget Overview” section.

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