Tax Rate Falling, Salaries Rising in Fort Bend County
Amelia Brust reported:
Fort Bend County is proposing a rise in tax revenue but a drop in the overall tax rate. The county budget office has proposed a county tax rate of $0.458 per $100 valuation for fiscal year 2016-17, a 1.5 percent decrease from FY 2015-16.
The county also proposed a 3.37 percent increase in salaries for elected county officials, which Precinct 4 Commissioner James Patterson said was the result of a compensation study. The Commissioners Court approved the tax rate and salary raises on their first reading Aug. 9, but both are set for public hearings and final approval in September.
With a proposed FY 2016-17 drainage district maintenance fund tax rate of $0.016 per $100 valuation, or 23.8 percent less than FY 2015-16, the total tax rate stands to be $0.474 per $100 valuation, if approved.
“This is the third consecutive year we managed to reduce the tax rate,” County Judge Robert Hebert said. “And that’s a good trend.”
The county is expecting a 3.94 percent property tax revenue increase, according to the state’s funding formula. But Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Meyers said the formula did not paint the full picture.
“However, not included in that formula is the property damage related to the recent flood, which is going to be reducing the property values and therefore would reflect a reduction in the amount of increase in property values,” Meyers said.
Although the proposed county tax rate is lower than the FY 2015-16 rate, Pamela Gubbels, the county’s director of finance and investments, said the expected tax revenue for FY 2016-17 is $276.4 million, compared to the $264.1 million budgeted in FY 2015-16.
Patterson said this was because the county’s property values had increased in FY 2015-16.
The FY 2016-17 budget proposal will be presented Sept. 6, with public hearings scheduled Sept. 12 and 13. The budget, tax rates and elected officials’ salaries are due to be approved Sept. 13, according to the county’s budget calendar.
A proposed 3.37 percent increase in salaries for elected officials was also presented Aug. 9. If approved, County Judge Robert Hebert and the county sheriff each would earn $131,519 for FY 2016-17. Salaries for the district attorney, county judges or district court judges remained because compensation for such positions is set by the state legislature rather than the county, Patterson said.
He said the raises were proposed after a compensation study of about 12 other counties revealed Fort Bend to be behind the market in some jobs.
“The salaries for elected officials have to be voted on in a separate action [from the regular budget],” he said.