Money is never an easy topic to discuss but as the deadline

approaches for Orange County to adopt a budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year,

money was the main topic of discussion at Commissioners’ Court on Monday.

While County Judge Carl Thibodeaux informed those attending

the public hearing that the Commissioners cut as much of the expenditures they

could, the Commissioners passed (with a four to one vote) a 2.92 percent tax

increase over the current effective tax rate. The property tax rate for 2011-2012

Orange County citizens is now .52990, which is less than last year’s tax rate

of .53507.

Had the Commissioners not increased the tax rate at all, the

County would most likely see a deficit of approximately -$330,000 at the end of

the year. Even a one percent increase would have left the county in a deficit.

The adopted budget will raise property taxes by $1,067,736, 4.55

percent more than last year’s budget. Of that amount, $205,337 is tax revenue

to be raised from new property added to the tax roll this year.

One of the reasons why the budget is increased is because of

the payroll, which is increasing by $674,683.85: $463,373.49 for the union

contract required for the Sheriff’s Department; $11,382.50 for the Employee

Matrix which was adopted four years ago; $34,477.86 for the Elected Officials

Pay Matrix; and $175,450.50 for the 1.5 percent Cola for non-elected employees.

The Commissioners also set the salaries expenses and other

allowances of elected county and precinct officials for fiscal year 2011-2012.

Drug Enforcement Agency award

Drug Enforcement Agents Scott Wilkins and Toby Swartz

awarded Orange County Investigator Joey Jacobs an Outstanding Achievement Award

for his direct involvement in a case which resulted in the dismantlement of a

national drug trafficking organizations and ceased the flow of thousands of

pounds of methamphetamine and cocaine throughout the United States.

“We actually named the operation ‘Operation Agent Orange’ to

reflect on where the origin of the investigation came from,” Swartz said. “Jacobs

was quick to realize that he had to strong informants that the DEA could use in

their investigation. He immediately reached out to us and we had a series of

meetings over a period of time.”

From those meetings, the DEA agents were able to work

undercover and infiltrate a large methamphetamine organization out of Mexico.

The DEA agents were able to set several wire taps. From there, they were able

to arrest 40 with some that even came from Orange County.

“This has been just one of many investigations we’ve had

with the Orange County Sheriff’s office,” Wilkins said. “It’s always started

with [the Orange County Sheriff’s Department] and it’s lead all the way to

Mexico. All the violence you see on TV, this is where it’s originating. This

case involved the Hector Beltran Leyva organization. This meth comes

from the super labs in Mexico. This investigation is putting them in jail.”

Other Business

Jeff Kelley, director of Emergency Management, said that the

storms on Sunday and Monday morning dropped about three-quarters of an inch to

2 inches of rain at different areas in the county. He said the percentage

chance for rain for the rest of week has dropped. At the recommendation of

Kelley, the Commissioners chose to leave the burn ban off for the time being.

The total

for bills paid this week is $1,271,178.56, including:$101,908.86

to McInnis Construction, Inc., from the general fund for the Adult Probation

Facility; $9,889.87 to Schaumburg & Polk from the general fund for the Shelter

of Last Resort;$577,106.36 to G&G Enterprises from the general fund for the

Shelter of Last Resort.

Deborah Rawls, County Auditor, explained that the bills for

this week are so high because they decided to pay off everything they could possibly

pay. The Auditor’s office will be installing and learning a new program next


About Nicole Gibbs

Editor of The Record Newspapers