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County budget approved without tax hike

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With no property tax increase to complicate matters and no big shifts in spending, the county’s 2020 Fiscal Year budget was adopted by Bandera County Commissioners’ Court on Thursday, Sept. 26, without controversy.

The new budget that goes into effect this month totaled just over $23 million once budget amendments were finalized. That is up from the $22.6 million budget adopted last year.

It includes a general fund of $14.5 million, almost $1.4 million larger than the prior year, and an ambulance budget of $2 million, up from almost $1.9 million last year.

Added to the Emergency Medical Service budget this year is a two-person shift of EMS workers giving the department more response capabilities during the time when demand for EMS service is greatest - from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Residents in the Lakehills area had hoped to get that shift stationed there, which is the most densely populated area of the county and has seen its EMS calls volume climb dramatically.

The decision on where to locate that shift, which was expected to cost about $250,000, was left to EMS Director Calvin Plummer. No decision had been announced as of earlier this week.

Also part of the budget this year is a $1.2 million capital expenditure to build a centralized and expanded EMS building, which is under construction in the 4300 block of Highway 16 South next to the Barton Logistics headquarters, along with a new ambulance costing about $221,000.

Commissioners did not increase the county’s property tax rate to help pay for the spending plan. The court approved a 2020 tax rate of 67.69 cents per $100 valuation, which is the same rate the county has charged since 2010.

Because new property has been added to the county’s tax rolls and existing property has seen its valuations increase, the tax revenue generated by the rate will increase by more than $494,000 this year, or almost 3.5 percent, officials said. Of that total, $289,882 came from taxes generated from new property.

The budget drew praise from commissioners and County Judge Richard Evans, who called it a good “middle of the road budget” that meets the county’s needs without requiring a tax increase or digging too deeply into the county’s surplus revenues.

“It’s not a Lexus, but it’s a good, sound Chevrolet,” the judge said.

Commissioner Bruce Eliker called it a “business as usual” budget and said “it should cover all of the stuff we’re trying to get done.”

“There was no arguing by anyone over this budget,” said Commissioner Jack Moseley, who was among those who noted that things are likely to change next year when strict spending limits imposed by new state legislation go into effect.

The budget provides county employees with a 3 percent raise when step pay increases were added to a cost-of-living adjustment. Pay for jailers and deputies also was improved to narrow the gap between what is paid in Bandera County and some other area counties that have lured law enforcement personnel away in the past.

In addition to the two new paramedics added to the EMS staff, one new patrol deputy position was authorized as was one new dispatcher. A jailer also was added to the county’s personnel inventory but an inmate coordinator position was eliminated.

The budget also allowed the county to make grants to 17 community organizations, including $25,000 to the Silver Sage center, $12,000 to the San Antonio Food Bank and $91,667 to libraries in Bandera, Lakehills and Medina. The Utopia library received $1,900 from the county.