The Brazos County Commissioners Court adopted its official budget for the 2020 fiscal year at its weekly meeting Tuesday morning. The panel passed a budget totaling $249,209,282, up from the current budget of $247.03 million.
The FY 2020 adopted budget is balanced at a tax rate of $0.4975 per $100 of valuation, a rate increase of about 7% from the FY 2019 rate of $0.4850 per $100 of valuation. The budget accounts for about 945 county employees, a net increase of just over 20 employees from the current total.
County Judge Duane Peters said that road maintenance was a priority for the commissioners. He said analysts found about $60 million worth of road rehab and construction needed in the county in the coming years. The FY 2020 adopted budget includes nearly $7 million allocated for county road work.
“We’re trying to look ahead over the next few years about how we deal with all the issues we have,” Peters said. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
Peters said he didn’t receive much in the way of resident feedback about the budget or tax rate increase during the process.
“I hope people understand that we do try to take care of county business and to do so in an efficient manner,” he said.
The total debt obligation for Brazos County secured by property taxes is about $89.27 million.
The budget also includes funding for the renovation and expansion of the kitchen in the Brazos County Jail, as well as a new electronic medical records system for the sheriff’s office. One of the numerous amendments to the budget proposal that the commissioners approved Tuesday calls for the creation of a booking clerk position for the jail division.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Steve Aldrich said during the meeting that he believed the county’s ability to provide yearly cost-of-living salary increases and other raises would be hampered by the Texas Legislature’s decision to limit tax rate increases to 3.5% beginning in 2020. Aldrich and other commissioners cited the passage of Senate Bill 2 as a factor in their decision to approve a tax rate increase.
“We had a really significant increase in health care costs this year,” Aldrich said. “It was significant to the extent of 2.25 million dollars that we decided to continue to provide for our 900-plus Brazos County employees. I don’t think that under the 3.5% revenue caps, we’re gonna be able to look at doing those types of things.”
Peters said the county worked to cover a larger share of employees’ health care plans than in previous years. The county’s contribution for health insurance will increase from about $12,870 to about $15,280 per full-time employee per year.
“We want to be competitive with salaries and benefits,” Peters said.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Nancy Berry said she and the other commissioners were focused on road improvements, health care and adding personnel for the sheriff’s department and the county jail.
“I think the budget is forward-looking,” Berry said. “We need to be thinking about the quality of life that we want to have in the future, and that’s what the budget addressed.”
The budget calls for about $27 million in spending on capital projects, a decrease from the $44.67 million spent in FY 2019. Capital projects being funded include just over $2 million for the justice of the peace and constable Precinct 1 building, and $3 million for an AgriLife Extension building.