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The county budget blues

The news keeps being bad. Not unexpected, but bad.

During hearings last month, department heads said worst-case scenarios could mean layoffs, less mosquito spraying, tax office closures and fewer resources to serve a still-growing county population.

County Auditor Barbara Schott’s $1.36 billion revenue forecast is close to that worst-case scenario. The county is projected to spend $1.410 billion in the fiscal year that ends Feb. 28.


The report, which was prepared before Schott revised her revenue estimate downward, puts the sheriff’s budget at $361 million in the coming year. The department is expected to have spent $424 million when the current fiscal year ends a week from now. The sheriff’s department had not yet received the report and a spokesperson had no comment Friday.

A public health department spokeswoman said the same. Public health officials reported last month that they would have to lay off as many as 40 in the worst-case scenario, but the $28.4 million allowance in Friday’s budget numbers appears to protect it from the deepest cuts.

Commissioners Court’s annual consideration of the property tax rate does not occur until September. Schott and [county budget officer Dick] Raycraft plan to review service charges and fees in the next few months and would make any recommendations to the court in September.

Cuts to the Sheriff’s budget make more sense than cuts to the public health budget, because cuts to public health budgets tend to cost you more in the long run. People still do get sick and need emergency care in tough economic times, after all. As long as the cuts to the Sheriff’s budget are based on the expectation that the jail population will decrease due to the efforts of the jail czar, then it’s the right idea. In addition, the Sheriff will see some savings from no longer having to deal with a big backlog of Internal Affairs complaints, which will free up some deputies to get back on patrol and hopefully cause County Commissioner Steve Radack to quit whining for a little while.

So, when the Commissioners get together in September to discuss the property tax rate, what do you think are the odds that they will revisit that 2007 rate cut, which had little effect on most people’s tax bills but which added up to millions of dollars for the county’s coffers? My guess is it’ll be politely ignored, what with there being an election coming up and all, but I suppose one never knows.

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  1. John says:

    They should cut their education department. The County does not even run schools yet they have a bloated department that HISD does not even use. I don’t even know what the county education dept does but create worthless white papers.

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