JEFFERSON — The Marion County Commissioners Court heard from only one resident during the court’s first public hearing last week concerning the proposed tax rate and $6 million budget for the new fiscal year.
The resident, Bruce Ockrassa, suggested that the county run as a meritocracy, and voiced his dissension on the proposed tax rate increase and $300 across the board raise for all county employees.
He said he’s embarrassed by how little law enforcement officers — “people that actually go out and put their rear ends on the line and provide a service” — get paid compared to other county employees.
“I’m 15 minutes from town, but if I call the sheriff they’re usually there in 15, 20 minutes,” said Ockrassa. “I appreciate what they do; but we need to run the county as a meritocracy.
When it comes to certain budget line items, he said his property values are declining due to increasingly poor road conditions.
“Over the last decade, the roads that lead to my house have gone from poorly maintained asphalt blacktop to a poorly maintained gravel top road,” said Ockrassa.
“Property values are declining and now they’re asking to give a tax increase to pay the people that aren’t keeping the roads maintained now,” he said. “I think when I bought the property, there were three road commissioners. Now we have four to not get the job done.”
Ockrassa called on the court to look at each budget line item and examine if it’s actually a benefit to a county.
“I’m sure there are good people that work for this county that probably deserve much more than we’re giving them,” he said.
But right now, the “sheep” are mixed in with the “goats,” Ockrassa said.
“We have people that aren’t performing; and yet you’re now saying, by the way, give them a raise,” he said.
The proposed tax rate is 0.578067 per $100 valuation, which is an increase of 3.75 cents or 7.92 percent above the effective rate, which is 0.540567. It’s a little more than 2 cents above the current tax rate, which is 0.554933 per $100 valuation.
The proposed salary increase will give employees and elected officials a $300 raise, which totals about $1.13 per working day, County Judge Leward LaFleur noted following the meeting.
The proposed Marion County budget for the new fiscal year — starting Jan 1. 2020 to Dec. 31, 2020 — will raise more revenue from property taxes than last year’s budget by an amount of $213,160, which is a 7.12 percent increase from last year’s budget, the county judge said.
Changes in the proposed budget include an increase of $19,839 to the general fund and an increase in general expenditures by $24,640.04 for salary/benefit adjustments making the general fund deficit $40,180.
“I want to thank the County Auditor Shanna Solomon and County Tax Assessor Karen Jones for helping me immensely come up with my very first (budget) as county judge,” said LaFleur. “Without their knowledge and leadership I wouldn’t have been able to get it done in the amount of time that we got it done.”
The second public hearing for the proposed tax rate will be 9 a.m. Monday, Sept. 9 in the County Courthouse Annex, 114 W. Austin St., on the second floor. The adoption of the tax rate and budget is set for 9 a.m. Monday, Sept. 16.
Judge LaFleur reminded all that it’s not the intent of the Marion County Commissioners Court to provide the public forum for demeaning of any individual or group, neither it is the intention of the court to allow a member or members of the public to insult the honesty and/or integrity of the court, as a body or as a member.
“Accordingly, profane, insulting, threatening language directed towards the court or a person on the court in the court’s presence or the use of any racial, ethnic, or gender slurs will not be tolerated,” he said.
He warned that violation of these rules may result in the following sanctions: cancellation of the speaker’s remaining time, removal from the commissioners courtroom, a contempt citation and/or such other civil or criminal sanctions as may be authorized under the Constitution, statutes and code of the state of Texas.