County budget set to increase
By RANDY GONZALES
The Ellis County Commission approved publication of the 2014 budget in a special meeting Friday at the new county office building located at 718 Main.
The 2014 budget will be published Wednesday in The Hays Daily News. The public hearing for the 2014 budget will be at 6:45 p.m. Aug. 19 at the Ellis County Courthouse. The budget goes into effect Jan. 1.
After transfers, the 2014 budget is $26,535,063. The 2013 budget was $21,052,086 after transfers. Actual expenses, projected through the end of the year, however, are estimated at $19,488,031, after transfers. That puts the spending increase at approximately 26.6 percent over what is expected to be spent in 2013.
Less than half of the $7 million spending increase is $3,385,00 in a sales tax fund for remodeling of the courthouse and jail and construction of an EMS/Rural Fire building.
Because of the increase in the value of the tax base, Ellis County Administrator Greg Sund said the mill levy is projected to be down, from 35.550 for the current year to 34.032. Valuation is up 7.4 percent — going from $399 million to $428.4 million.
With the mill levy down and assessed valuation up, Sund said that doesn't necessarily mean an increase in taxes. He said what the average homeowner will pay in taxes is unknown at this time.
"Until we know what every taxing unit is going to do, you can't come up with that number," Sund said. "The mill levy isn't finalized until like November. You'll get results from all the taxing units, be closer to a real number. It's just way too early, it would be throwing darts at the wall, because I just don't know."
Ellis County Appraiser Dean Denning also said Friday he could not come up with a number for what taxpayers would expect to pay until September at the earliest, when he would have more information.
There were some tweaks to the budget at Friday's special meeting. The Public Works department, which had a cut in its fuel budget, had half of the cut restored.
In addition, a miscommunication in the EMS budget was resolved, and a position that was left out in the previous draft was included.
Sund and the commissioners also discussed previous concerns about the Rural Fire Department's budget.
This is Sund's fourth budget he has prepared for the county.
"I think it's always a challenge, because you have adjustments to the budget, you have to do whatever you can to lower the costs to make them reasonable and acceptable to the board and to the public," he said. "The original requests are always going to be higher."