Deborah Rawls and her county auditor’s staff did a great job of lifting a $2.2 million budget deficit, while working out ways to pay for the replacement Adult Probation and Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace buildings, County Judge Carl Thibodeaux said in special session this week.

The estimated tax rate of .53507 is 3.5 percent above the effective rate of .51698, while being 6.2 percent less than last year’s rate of .57075.

So someone with taxable property will pay less than last year, however, more if the value went up as a result of additions/upgrades inspired by Ike.

Using the example of a $100,000 liability, Thibodeaux said owners who paid $570 last year would pay $535 this year – as long as the appraisal value stayed the same.

As to the two buildings, the 3.5 percent means some extra income will be added to county coffers. Income that is absolutely necessary, Thibodeaux said.

“There’s no choice,” he said. “It’s got to be done. We lost them in Hurricane Ike and unfortunately insurance and the government are not going to replace the total cost.”

The county is spending upwards of $50,000 per year to pay for security overtime at the temporary Adult Probation offices. Nearly two years after Ike, the county still has many employees displaced by the storm damage.

“We need to get our employees back to where they belong,” Thibodeaux said.
The much-discussed CHAMPS multipurpose structure proposed for Farm Road 1442 will mostly come under next year’s budget, he said.

“Debbie and her staff did a fantastic job this year of crunching the numbers, and I myself am very comfortable with this,” he said.

After the meeting in a discussion with reporters, he added, “I could have just said the tax rate is the same as last year’s. But I’ll take a little heat, because I’m honest.”

Airport concerns

Commissioners approved to spend about $12,000 for engineering work to extend taxi way lights at the Orange County Airport; and about $8,000 to study a new master plan for the airport.

Both sets of monies are already in the county budget.

Precinct 1 Commissioner David Dubose said the last airport master plan came about 20 years ago.

A new plan will help guide officials with what comes next, as the airport sees more jet traffic than in the past and will soon support a Global Positioning System to aid pilots, at no cost to the county.

No Wake signs

Commissioners approved the advice of County Engineer Les Anderson and a petition by residents to have “Slow, No Wake” signs placed on Cow Bayou behind Skylark Street in Bridge City. Anderson said the Coast Guard had no problem with the signs’ placements.