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Navarro County Commissioners have worked closer to a new budget for the coming fiscal year, having trimmed about $800,000 from the first draft plan.
The county is anticipating general fund revenues of $17,880,000 for the coming year, and the latest preliminary estimate of budget expenditures stands at $18.7 million - a deficit of about $829,000.
However, that’s a much better number than the first budget draft, which showed a preliminary deficit of over $1.7 million.
Commissioners resumed budget talks Monday afternoon, after taking care of a few non-budget related matters, and a nearly hour-long executive session to discuss personnel that yielded no action.
While more adjustments to the budget can be made between now and early September, commissioners will need to finalize any major expenditures in order to set a proposed tax rate and begin a time-sensitive series of public hearings on the tax rate, currently at .6270 cents per $100 valuation.
The newest version of the budget under study includes several capital expenditures previously given the OK by commissioners, but does not include any requested salary increases or additional personnel or expenses that were requested during talks with office holders and department heads.
Commissioners have tentatively budgeted $350,000 annually for both the District Court and County Court-At-Law to pay for the cost of court-appointed attorneys. The two courts had submitted a request of $400,000 each, but after further talks with District Judge James Lagomarsino, a consensus was reached on the reduced figure, shaving $100,000 off the preliminary budget deficit of over $1.7 million.
Also part of Monday’s discussion was the position of Precinct 3 Constable Brad Butler, who had proposed increasing his salary from $2,400 annually to $17,560 — on par with the other three constable positions. After concerns were raised about Butler’s past performance, commissioners had tentatively decided to leave the salary at $2,400, allow Butler 55 cents per mile for papers he personally delivers, and give him a year to prove he’ll do the job. A budget line-item of $1,000 was added to pay the mileage.
Pct. 1 JP Vicki Gray questioned if Butler would be paid the $1,000 regardless of his performance, and was told no.
“Bottom line, he’s got to earn this money,” she said.
As commissioners were discussing Butler’s position with Gray, Pct. 3 JP Jackie Freeland, and Pct. 4 JP Connie Hickman, they received an email from Butler offering yet another option to consider — one that would include his resignation and the establishment of only one “full-time” constable to service the JP courts — a move he said would save the county money. Butler said he was offering the option to help alleviate the county’s initial projected budget shortfall.
The four county Justices of the Peace made a similar proposal several year ago to the county — in part because of complaints about Butler’s performance — but that proposal was not acted on.
County Judge H.M. Davenport Jr. said he didn’t believe the county has the authority to, in effect, do away with the constables offices. He said that would require action by the state legislature.
Commissioners will take Tuesday and study the newest budget numbers provided by County Auditor Kathy Hollomon, and return for more talks on the budget Wednesday.
Wednesday’s workshop is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in the basement conference room of the Navarro County Courthouse.
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