2012-08-30 / Front Page

County Proposes Increase in Property Tax Rate

There were two main issues discussed at the Lee County Commissioners’ Court Meeting held on Monday, August 27, 2012 - the proposed tax rate for the upcoming year and the use of the soon to be vacant building at 849 East Industry in Giddings, usually known as the Medical Building.

What was not on the agenda was a 4% increase proposed for all county employees’ salaries. Two hearings where this will be discussed are scheduled for September 5 at 10 a.m. and on September 10, at 1:30 p.m.

The last time county employees and elected officials received a salary increase was in 2010, when they received a 2.5% increase. Proposed salaries of elected officials can be found in today’s paper on page B5.

On the Proposed Tax Rate, it was recommended that the new rate be set at $0.6529 per $100 valuation, compared to the current rate of $0.6459, a $0.0070 increase (contrary to what we reported and what the County Tax Assessor/ Collector, Suzanne Kessler recommended, in the August 9 issue).

The basis for the increase is the uncertainty concerning the cost of upcoming repairs to the inside of the Courthouse and the likelihood that the availability of state funding may be a significant issue. With the tax increase estimated at $7.00 for a $100,000 valuation, the Court voted unanimously to accept the proposed rate.

Concerning the possible future use of the Medical Building, the County Clerk Building Committee presented four possible options:

Option 1 is to renovate the Industry Street building to accommodate only the Clerk’s Office and build fireproof record storage for other County departments. Estimated cost of this option is $525,000.

Option 2 is to renovate the Industry Street building to accommodate the Clerk’s Office and the Probation Department or DPS, with only minor renovation. In addition, move the County’s fire proof record storage in either the current Probation or DPS space. Estimated cost of this option is $495,000.

Option 3 is to move both Probation and DPS into the Industry Street building with limited renovations. Move the county fire proof record storage into the DPS space. This results in construction of a new County Clerk’s office building, which would occur concurrently. Estimated cost of this option is $75,000, not including costs for the new County Clerk’s office building.

Option 4 is to construct a new 6,000 sq. ft. building for the County Clerk’s office on the now vacant lot across from the Courthouse, incorporate Option 3 into this option and then sell the Probation Department building. Estimated cost of this option, including the cost of Option 3, is $975,000.

There was considerable discussion about the cost of each option and serious skepticism as to the cost of Option 1 at an estimated $525,000. While the costs are, at best, estimates only, Judge Fischer questioned how simply rearranging office space could be so costly and how the cost could be reasonably explained to the taxpayers of the County.

The existing lease on the space currently occupied by the County Clerk’s Office expires this coming December and will then be on a month to month basis.

The County Clerk Building Committee is currently recommending Option 4, with an estimated cost of almost $1,000,000.

In other actions, the Court added Mary’s Clinic to the list of approved locations for the County’s Indigent Health Care Program Clinics. The Court also approved three preliminary and one final Subdivision Plats subject to certain specified changes being made. While not declaring a County Wide Burn Ban, primarily because of the recent rains, the Commissioners ask that all residents exercise caution with outdoor burning, since the grass is still very dry and many dead trees are around from last year to serve as fuel.

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