County

A five-cent decrease in the Kaufman County tax rate for 2020-2021 is proposed by county commissioners.

If approved later this summer, the rate would drop to about 49 cents per $100 valuation, down from about 54 cents last year and 59 cents the year before.

A two percent across-the-board raise for county employees beginning in January also is part of the budget. Road and bridge district employees would be excluded. Many got raises this year after departmental reorganization, commissioners said.   

Despite the proposed lower tax rate, many property owners will not see a lower county tax bill. 

Countywide, property valuations went up close to 15 percent. That means the lower tax rate will be applied to property that now has a higher value, increasing the tax bill. 

“If our values go up, our tax rate goes down,” explained Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Hunt. 

A homeowner whose property was valued at $200,000 this year had a county tax bill of about $1,080. That same home, if it is valued at $230,000 this year, would pay about $1,127 in county taxes.

Valuations are set by the county appraisal district on property worth as of Jan. 1. 

Commissioners, city councils, school boards and other taxing entities cannot change the valuations.

Last year when valuations went up, most cities and school districts also lowered their tax rate. Budget preparations in most taxing entities are ongoing.

Even with the rate decrease, the county still will have an additional $3.3 million in funding for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. 

About $1.2 million of the revenue increase will go to general county operations and another $569,000 will go to the road and bridge districts. Other tax revenue will go to pay off debt. 

A public hearing on the tax rate and budget tentatively is scheduled Aug. 19. Tax notices will go out in the fall. 

Commissioners have been discussing the budget in a series of workshops throughout July. 

They determined early on to keep increased tax revenues below 3.5 percent. If they had gone higher it could have triggered a tax rollback election under a new state law capping tax revenue increases.

County Judge Hal Richards said he thinks it is a solid budget.

“I think we kind of walked the line,” Richards said, balancing the need to keep revenue in line with the county’s needs. 

Most of the spending increases came from adding employees to handle county growth. 

“Our employees are doing an exceptional job,” Hunt said, often working on county business on their own time. 

As usual, commissioners debated how to split the money between general operations and the road and bridge districts. 

“You really need a little extra revenue” for roads, Precinct 4 Commissioner Ken Cates said. 

Commissioners discussed raising the amount going to the districts and settled on a tax rate that will bring in an additional $569,000 to the districts. The money is allotted based on the number of county roads in a district. 

Cates pointed out that some bond revenue also will be available for roads next year. 

Richards said he is concerned about how the economy is going to affect county tax collections.

Normally, the county receives almost all the taxes that are billed. He said he’s not sure that will be true for the 2021 budget.

Big retail outlets will be fine, he said, but he is not sure how many small businesses will be struggling. 

Even a small swing in the taxes collected could have a big impact on the budget.

“I feel a little bit insecure,” Richards said. 

 The complete proposed budget is available at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ijpgo8QuBp4N_03bjyHHcc-t7j7Dt6d8/view.

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