Brazos tax rate vote on hold after commissioners skip meeting

Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 8:55 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - The Brazos County Commissioners Court was set to approve the previously proposed 2022 county tax rate on Tuesday, however, the absence of two commissioners put those plans on hold.

Russ Ford, Brazos County Commissioner Precinct 2 and Steve Aldrich, Brazos County Commissioner Precinct 1 were both missing from their seats during Tuesday’s meeting.

Two weeks ago Ford and Aldrich were the only two votes against the proposed 2022 county tax rate. The purposed rate, $0.4835 was approved by Brazos County Judge Duane Peters, Brazos County Commissioner Precinct 3 Nancy Berry and Brazos County Commissioner Precinct 4 Irma Cauley. The rate was a single cent lower than last year’s rate of $0.4935, however, both Ford and Aldrich said it would cost taxpayers more money this year due to aspects such as inflation and rising appraisal values.

In order to pass the county tax rate, four members of the commissioner’s court must be present to vote. If the new tax rate is not passed by September 29 it will be set to at the no new revenue rate, $0.4294, Peters said.

“I think it was an intentional, disrespectful act of two commissioners who have a constitutional duty to come up and vote on a tax rate,” Peters said. “If they want to vote against it that’s fine, they’ve expressed their opinion we all know what it is. To not come up and take a vote I think is disrespectful.”

Ford and Aldrich said the 1% decrease proposed would actually cause landowners to see a 9% increase in their taxes.

“If you raise taxes $200 it could cause somebody that’s now a homeowner to not be able to be a homeowner anymore,” Ford said. “That’s unacceptable, we just can’t do that. So I do feel strongly, I’m passionate about this.”

Aldrich said Brazos County has $88 million in reserve and questions why taxpayers should have to pay more than what’s needed to fund the budget.

“What has been proposed would cost taxpayers $7 million dollars more than necessary to meet the budget,” Aldrich said. “That’s unfair and we have to be responsible to our taxpayers.”

Ford said the tax increase would be a burden passed onto taxpayers especially after the commissioner’s court had already discussed a $10 to $20 RMA fee and a new bond proposal of $100 million. The commission acknowledged widespread financial burdens with inflation, causing them to increase county employee pay. Now he’s wondering why residents are not getting the same thought.

“The majority decided that we needed to offer employees a 7.5% cost of living increase, which is responsive to what’s going on with the economy,” Ford said. “However, if we give our employees the 7.5%, then we need to take care of our of our residents of our community.”

Ford and Aldrich said while it’s not the best solution it was the only one left to best represent the taxpayers of Brazos County after negotiations fell through.

“Is this the best resolution? No. It’s the only resolution that Commissioner Ford and I are left with,“ Aldrich said. “If we’re going to take care of inflation for Brazos county employees, we need to do that without putting more of a cost of living on Brazos County taxpayers.”

Peters said the no new revenue tax will take $12 million out of this year’s budget. While funds can be pulled from the county fund balance, he says it would have a lasting impact over the next few years. Funding for services such as roads and law enforcement could be affected and certain county projects might get delayed or tabled.

”There are other things that I think could make a huge impact on public safety for Brazos County and their citizens that without knowing what the budget is going to look like, if we go to no new revenue there’s not going to be funding to handle those things,” he said.

The Brazos County Commissioners Court plans to vote on the tax rate again. Peters said he hopes that next time there will be four members present. It is unclear if Aldrich and Ford plan to attend future meetings regarding the tax.

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