Increasing property values have Brazos County officials expecting to bring in nearly 4% more revenue than last year under a proposed fiscal year 2022 budget that lowers the tax rate.
If approved, the county’s proposed $285.4 million budget would be supported by a tax rate of $0.493500 per $100 valuation, a decrease from the current tax rate of $0.495.
Because the proposed tax rate is almost a penny higher than the no-new-revenue — or effective — tax rate, the county will be required to hold a public hearing.
Brazos County residents will have a chance to weigh in on both the tax rate and the proposed budget during public hearings scheduled for Aug. 31. The public hearings will begin at 1:30 p.m. in the Commissioners Courtroom in the County Administration Building at 200 S. Texas Ave. in Bryan.
“We did not anticipate growth,” said Irene Jett, the county’s budget officer, following Tuesday’s Commissioner’s Court meeting. “We thought that it might be flat or below, and we were pleasantly surprised that our economy is strong and diversified efficiently that we saw growth.”
The property tax funds make up 61% of the county’s revenue. An additional 13% comes from other tax sources, includes sales tax revenue that is estimated to increase by nearly $2 million over last year.
Jett said there was $455.7 million in taxable value from new improvement since January, which is $47.4 million more than in 2020.
The proposed budget includes $17.8 million more in spending than the 2021 fiscal year budget, a 6.67% increase. That includes a 16% increase in the county’s general fund, bringing it to $150.1 million.
The majority of the general fund, Jett said, is personnel at 53%, and the proposed budget takes into account 14 new positions. The county will add 21 new positions and eliminate seven to bring the number of county employees to 964.
Some of the personnel additions include a clerk at the tax office, an administrative attorney and investigator in the district attorney’s office, a courthouse security officer and two American Rescue Plan administrators, one full-time and one part-time.
“We’ve kept personnel at a very low level over the number of years,” County Judge Duane Peters said, “but there’s so many departments we needed to deal with, so we did add some personnel this year to try to take care of the shortfalls.”
This year’s budget also includes and a 3% cost of living adjustment.
The cost of living adjustments and merit increases are among the top priorities, along with roads and safety, Jett said.
Grant fund had a 735% increase, going from $3.6 million to $30.25 million. Jett said the majority of that is the county’s most recent allocation of American Recovery Act funds, which will be distributed to departments during the budget year.
The capital projects fund includes $14.8 million that will be rolled over from certificates of obligation the court approved in 2020.
“The county has to budget all funds that they are going to use, whether the funding was received in one year and there’s leftover funds,” Jett said. “For some of these funds, like the certificates of obligation that we have in here, it’s all funding that came in as a result of issuing the $24 million in October.”
Some of the projects funded by the certificates of obligation bonds have already started, she said. Two capital projects funded by the October include the Precinct 1 justice of the peace and constable building and roof repairs due to hail damage. The county will be reimbursed by insurance for some of that repair work, Peters said, but all the county’s roofs were surveyed. Other capital projects include county vehicles and $5.2 million for roads through the road and bridge department.
Jett called the budget fiscally conservative, and Peters said he was comfortable with the proposal.
“I think we held it to a level that we really needed to,” Peters said. “We’re going to get some things accomplished that needed to be accomplished, but we still try to hold the line on the budget and the tax rates.”
Following the Aug. 31 public hearings, the budget will be brought before the court for approval during a Sept. 7 meeting. The proposed budget and tax rate is available to view on the Brazos County website.