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Commissioners oppose unfunded mandates

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Posted: Friday, January 18, 2019 4:09 pm

Unfunded spending mandates from the state cost Bandera County taxpayers almost $3 million and eat up more than one-fifth of its property tax rate, Bandera County commissioners observed in a resolution against any additional unfunded mandates that they passed last week.

The resolution won unanimous support from commissioners in their Thursday, Jan. 10, meeting.

It outlined the cost of various state mandates that have diverted county funds from local services to support financial obligations imposed by the state and said it is in the best interest of counties and their taxpayers for those mandates to end.

“What we’re asking is don’t shove anything else down our throats,” said Bandera County Judge Richard Evans a few days after commissioners approved the resolution. “We know what we have now, but don’t add more.”

Unfunded mandates come from acts of the Texas Legislature, which just opened a new session last week, or through state agencies and executive orders.  They impose costs on Texas counties and raise pressures to increase property tax rates to cover the costs of programs the state created but did not fully fund.

In Bandera County in the most recent year in which data was available that included more than $1.7 million to fund the state judicial system, $367,590 to support the county’s central appraisal district, $342,695 to support the adult probation and juvenile probation department and $102,199 to pay for the appointment of attorneys in criminal cases, the resolution said.

Evans said the state senator representing Bandera County has filed a joint resolution calling for a constitutional amendment prohibiting unfunded mandates, and the resolution commissioners approved called for the same thing.

The judge said counties are tired of being “hammered” by state leaders who promote legislation making it easier for taxpayers to schedule a rollback vote on their property taxes while making it harder to keep tax rates from growing to the level where rollbacks become possible.

“It’s intellectually dishonest,” said Evans.

Whether the proposed constitutional amendment has a chance of getting approved is uncertain, but the county supports it, the judge said.

Evans is more actively involved in the discussion over the costs of providing representation to indigent suspects in criminal cases because he is one of 13 members of the Texas Indigent Defense Commission, an arm of the Texas Judicial Council that works to oversee and improve the defense of indigent clients in all 254 Texas counties.

Gov. Greg Abbott earlier this month announced that he had reappointed Evans and Missy Medary, the presiding judge of the Fifth Administrative Judicial Region in Corpus Christi, to the commission for terms that expire in two years.

Evans said he has strived to get the Legislature to fully fund indigent defense costs rather than covering about 12 percent of those costs, as was the case two years ago.

The judge said he believes he has made some progress in focusing on the need to reduce those unfunded costs and to highlight the special needs that rural counties like Bandera County face in addressing indigent defense needs.

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1 comment:

  • ATP posted at 11:29 am on Sun, Feb 10, 2019.

    ATP Posts: 27

    A resolution has absolutely no impact. It's merely a feel-good move.
    Nice try though.

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