Commissioners hold first of two public hearings on plans to lower county’s property tax rate

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Wood County commissioners held the first public hearing Aug. 28 on the 2019-20 property tax rate. The proposed rate is 55.5 cents per $100 valuation. Last year’s rate was 57.99 cents.

Two public hearings are required before adopting the tax rate. The next hearing is scheduled Sept. 10 at 9 a.m.

County Judge Lucy Hebron explained that the proposed rate is lower because taxable values are up throughout the county.

Wood County resident Brian Smale asked questions about the budget process, such as inflation, deflation and growth rates.

Smale also asked why the proposed budget was not on the county’s website. He claimed the proposed budget must be posted on the website under the Texas Local Government Code.

According to the Local Government Code, once the county judge has completed preparation of the proposed budget, they shall file it with the county clerk. The budget shall be available for inspection by any person once filed with the clerk. If the county has a website, the clerk shall take action to ensure the budget is posted online.

The proposed budget is now on the home page.

According to the code, the commissioner’s court must give public notice of a public hearing stating that the court will consider the budget. A notice for a budget hearing at 9 a.m. on Sept. 16 was published in the Monitor on Aug. 29.

A notice was also published in the paper about the proposed tax rate and hearings on Aug. 28 and Sept. 10.

Hebron responded to Smale’s questions about the county budget and giving notice to the public.

“Historically, the budget’s been done a certain way over the years with the auditor’s assistance and the commissioner’s court. We’ve maintained a similar procedure this year. Seeing as this is my first year as county judge, I relied heavily on the auditor and commissioners to shepherd this budget through,” Hebron said. “This year, we did have more hearings than we have had in the past. I’d just like the record to reflect, we’ve had 13 different opportunities in workshop sessions that were duly posted to the public that were spread over 11 days. And when I added up the hours we spent as a commissioner’s court, we spent around 40 hours just on this 2020 proposed budget.”

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