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Editor's note: This story was edited at 9:45 p.m. Monday, Sept. 10, 2012, to remove the reference to Grace Mickle as tthe Navarro County Republican Women's party chairman. Mickle has resigned from that post, according to Navarro County GOP Chairman Frank Steed.
It’s a “wrap” for the 2012-2013 Navarro County budget process.
Commissioners on Monday took final action to approve the new budget starting Oct. 1, and officially ratify the county’s ad valorem tax rate.
Before the votes, commissioners heard from several county residents about expressing disapproval of the county’s decision to proceed with a restoration of the Navarro County Courthouse, as well as the TxDOT project to build a Highway 31 bypass loop around Corsicana.
The actual rate remains unchanged at 62.70 cents per $100 taxable valuation, but since it will generate more revenue (approximately 2.85 percent over 2011-2012 figures) it has to legally be called a tax increase. New properties on the tax rolls and some increases in valuation are responsible for the increase in revenue. About 75 percent of the new revenue comes from new properties added to the tax rolls this tax year, said Kathy Hollomon, County Auditor.
The budget passed includes a deficit of $818,362, with General Fund expenditures coming in at $18,907,526. Hollomon noted on questioning from Jackie King, a county resident who spoke during the public hearing on the budget, that the last two full budget years have included a budgeted deficit, but that both years the county actually ended up “in the black” and expects to end the current budget year (also budgeted with a deficit of $750,000) to end close to “break even” for the year.
Speaking out in the Public Forum portion of Monday’s meeting, Grace Mickle questioned both the proposed restoration of the courthouse and the state project building a bypass loop for State Highway 31, recently approved by TxDOT.
“It’s too much for us to handle at this point,” she said of the costs of the projects.
Mickle said that the bypass would negatively impact downtown Corsicana businesses, preventing people traveling on the highway from visiting the downtown area. Mickle also questioned the scope of the restoration project and the county’s share of that work, estimated at about $5.1 million plus the costs of temporarily relocating courthouse personnel.
Also speaking was Amber McNutt, who said it would be good for the community to be able to vote on the restoration and bypass projects.
“I’m not sure many businesses are in favor of the loop,” she said. “Whether it’s the state’s money or county money its still our taxes.” She asked if it was “really necessary” to go through the courthouse reconstruction.
King suggested the Preservation Foundation undertake the restoration and foot the bill for the work, and said that commissioners needed to use “other ways” to communicate with the public rather than just through meetings and the newspaper. She also said it looked like the state wasn’t going to come up with its share of the money, but did not elaborate on that statement.
King also said that President Obama’s tax plan next year would take $40,000 more in taxes from a couple earning $250,000.
Bob McNutt of Collin Street Bakery echoed his concerns about the two projects, most notably the bypass.
“As a businessman, I’m concerned about where are the customers coming from,” he told commissioners. After learning that the bypass would include “curb cuts” to allow access and egress at area other than the ends of the proposed loop, McNutt also questioned why build a complete loop — rather than just go from West Highway 31 to the Interstate south of Corsicana, and use I-45 to intersect back with Highway 31 in the east side of Corsicana.
Bob McNutt also suggested an alternative to the bypass that would make the existing Seventh Avenue through Corsicana a “one way” street heading west, and utilizing the abandoned railroad right of way just south of Seventh Avenue to construct a one-way road heading east.
“It would create more economic opportunity,” he said of the alternative.
Commissioners James Olsen and David “Butch” Warren both commented on how the projects would help increase the county’s tax base, and perhaps interest in Corsicana and Navarro County from potential businesses and industries.
Also speaking Monday were Danny Combs and Bobby Vickery, who questioned the use of the taxpayer’s money for the projects.
Vickery said he’d rather use the money for the restoration to spend on infrastructure to bring businesses into town.
“In these economic times today, I don’t feel like we can afford to do it.”
“I’m not saying I’m for it or against it,” added Danny Combs. “It’s just there are a lot of questions to be answered.
“We need to make sure we can pay for it before we do it,” he said.
Combs also said the county needed to do a better job of communicating information with county residents, including having meetings in the evening hours.
County Judge H.M. Davenport responded that the commissioners had tried evening meetings in the past, saying that after the first one, they were not any better attended than the court’s regular 10 a.m. meeting time.
Vickery also called for a drop in the county’s tax rate by two cents.
Commissioners Meeting Briefs
COMMISSIONERS MEETING BRIEFS
By Bob Belcher/Daily Sun Staff Writer
Consent agenda approved
Minutes of previous meetings, Lake P&Z minutes, payment of bills, budget amendments and Lake P&Z actions were all approved as a part of the court’s consent agenda.
Burn ban to remain
With continued dry weather conditions and several fires this past week, commissioners took no action on lifting the burn ban. It will remain in effect until further notice.
Special Use Permit approved
Commissioners gave the go-ahead to grant a Special Use Permit for the use of an RV during the construction of a home in the Village Woods development, Lot 23A, for John and Nancy Pieper.
Archival plan adopted
Commissioners approved plans for archiving documents as submitted by County Clerk Sherry Dowd. The archiving plan is an annual action taken by Dowd and the court.
Direct deposit urged
At the request of County Treasurer Frank Hull, commissioners approved a resolution calling for all employees hired by Navarro County after Oct. 1, 2012 to use direct deposit for their payroll checks. Commissioners approved the request, with an addition that would allow for regular check issue in the event of special circumstances.
Court order adopted
A part of the budgeting process, commissioners adopted the District Court order setting salaries of the employees of the County Auditor’s office. There were no salary increases for the Auditor or assistants, only some increases in longevity pay.
Auditor’s report approved
County Auditor Kathy Hollomon presented the July 2012 auditor’s monthly financial report.
Grant, road bond changes approved
Commissioners approved a modification on a HIDTA grant, and a change in a road bond from Devon Energy Production for a project in Precinct 2.
Tax Assessor’s report tabled
The regular monthly report from County Tax Assessor/Collector Russell Hudson was tabled at Hudson’s request.