The Marion County Commissioners Court recently rejected the Marion Central Appraisal District’s new fiscal year budget, for the third consecutive year.
When the court voted against the 2021 fiscal budget last year, commissioners considered the budget too high, given the financial climate caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. When the court voted against the 2020 budget the year before, it was due to the proposed astronomical increase in salaries.
An increase in salaries is what moved the court to shoot down the budget this year, too.
“Three positions got $1,200 salary increases,” noted Marion County Judge Leward LaFleur.
“The thing that bothers me the most about that is the chief appraiser is paid for by the taxpayers, and she makes more money than any elected official in Marion County with the exception of the district attorney, who is paid for by the state,” explained LaFleur.
“Their office administrator makes more than all the elected officials in the county,” he said, noting every elected official in Marion County makes $39,844 a year.
“Since I’ve been county judge we’ve only been able to give a salary increase to the employees of Marion County by $600; and that was only a one-time thing,” said LaFleur. “A lot have to hold a second job, and it’s just not right. The people that come up with property tax values are making this kind of money when you have ladies in this courthouse that don’t make that type of money.”
According to the proposed budget, the chief appraiser’s annual salary will go from $68,000 to $69,200. The total is $91,096 when the retirement, Social Security and medical, dental and vision benefits are added.
The annual salary for the administrative assistant for office #1 jumped from $39,500 to $40,700. With benefits added, along with retirement and Social Security, the total is $57,854. The annual salary for the Office 2 (CSR) position moved up from $31,310 to $32,510. The total is $48,301 with benefits, retirement and social security added.
Pct. 4 Commissioner Charles Treadwell made the motion to reject the proposed budget due to the salary increases; and Commissioner Pct. 1 JR Ashley seconded it.
“The court, in my view, voted the appraisal district’s budget (down), simply on the basis that we fund the appraisal district more than any other entity,” Judge LaFleur said. “We have more parcels than JISD, more than the city of Jefferson and we can’t give our employees raises like this.”
To approve the budget would be a slap in the county employees’ faces, the court believes, as the appraisal district is not a county operated entity, but is overseen by the Texas Comptroller’s Office.
“Not only is it disrespectful to the taxpayer, it would just be spitting in the eye of the hard working people that work for Marion County,” said LaFleur.
Further, “the appraiser district doesn’t have to raise taxes to pay for their budgets, but the commissioners would have to raise taxes to pay for the appraiser district’s budget,” he added. “They don’t have to answer to the taxpayer like the county does.”
“We continuously have to raise taxes to fund this budget that’s not ours,” the county judge said. “I wish we could pay the employees of Marion County this kind of salary, but we just can’t.”
To add to matters, the court was disturbed that no representative from the appraisal district came to present the budget.
“Then they put this on the commissioners court to vote on and nobody shows up to explain their budget; and then we’ve got 30 days to either approve or reject the budget and if you table this budget, it’s the same as approving it, but you only have 30 days to review it,” LaFleur explained.
With the timeframe, that wouldn’t have given the court a chance to review it before they met again. Thus, commissioners considered it in the best interest to reject the budget.
“I’m proud we did,” said LaFleur.
The Marion Central Appraisal District appraises property for ad valorem taxation for six taxing authorities, which include: Marion County, the city of Jefferson, Jefferson ISD, Avinger ISD, Ore City ISD and Marion County Hospital District. The proposed budget for the taxing entities consideration is approved by the appraisal district board.