Brazos County Commissioners officially set new tax rate and budget

In a four-to-one vote, commissioners approved 0.4097 as the 2023-24 tax rate and the budget that received 11 amendments
KBTX News 3 at Six Weekday EXTENDED(Recurring)
Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 8:29 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Brazos County commissioners adopted a new tax rate and budget at their regular meeting on Tuesday.

In a four-to-one vote, commissioners approved 0.4097 as the 2023-24 tax rate and the budget which received 11 amendments that morning. Prior to the regular meeting, the county held two public hearings for citizens to voice their thoughts. One was on the proposed budget. The other was on the previously proposed tax rate of 0.424.

Over a dozen residents expressed their concerns during both hearings with no one in support of either. The Republican Party of the Brazos Valley also sent a letter to commissioners that asked them to reconsider the tax rate. The letter said in part, “the proposed tax increase by the elected Brazos County Commissioners Court is violating the public trust”.

“You got to listen to the electorate, those people were there they wanted no change in the tax revenue at all for the county,” Konderla said. “I certainly understand and respect it. I met with a large group of them yesterday and went over the issues with the county and the things that the county are preparing for.”

While both the proposed tax rate and adopted rate are lower than 2022-23′s no new revenue rate of 0.429, taxpayers will still pay more money mothy due to a rise in property values. Commissioner Chuck Konderla said the new rate will increase monthly payments by $7, which is $5 less than the proposed rate would have.

“With your property taxes, the county is about 25% of your bill for most people. We’re hoping that increase will fund the things we need to do, the county business that needs to be done, and not be so arduous on folks at home,” Konderla said.

Estimates of the previously proposed tax rate of .424 showed the county would have generated $2.6 million more than what was required to fund the proposed budget. It’s one of the reasons Commissioner Steve Aldrich, voted against the proposed rate and against the adopted rate which he said was still too high.

“The total amount is $11 million dollars as opposed to $15 million dollars,” Aldrich said comparing how much revenue the adopted rate and proposed rate would generate for the county. “But that could have been offset by using $13 million dollars of the $19 million dollar surplus we’re projected to have this year.”

That concern was felt by Brazos County resident Jody Quimby who felt it was important to participate in the public hearings.

“I believe it’s unnecessary to collect significantly more in tax than is budgeted than is necessary,” Quimby said. “As Commissioner Aldrich pointed out historically the county has not used but about 90% of what’s budgeted year to year.”

Another Brazos County resident Cynthia Wiley said she wanted to make sure commissioners understood the tax burden that their constituents have.

“We got inflation, everything costs more, going to the grocery store, filling your gas tank, paying for your children’s things, and just buying things that you normally need,” Wiley said. “To have our property taxes go up is just adding to the hardship that is on families nowadays.”

Last year Konderla watched as commissioners failed to reach an agreement on the tax rate causing it to default to no new revenue. Konderla said being aware of the growing county’s needs and how it affects the citizens is how he came to what he believes was a good compromise.

“People are counting on us to do this job and be aware of what the county needs are and make sure those needs are met,” Konderla said. “Seventy-five percent of the budget is crucial, and so much of those are state mandates, so you have that in mind, that people will be impacted by this decision, so increasing the taxes more than what I thought we could get away with is not something I wanted to do.”

Aldrich claimed if the county agreed to use the $13 million surplus and went with the no new revenue rate this year the budget would have been fully funded, and he felt his fellow commissioners ignored their constituents.

“The no new revenue rate does it adjusts the tax rate so there’s no additional revenue on property taxes to the county than there was the previous year,” Aldrich said. “Since I’ve been commissioner our fund balance from property tax used to be 55% now it’s 130%.”

Konderla said commissioners kept in mind the future needs of the county when they turned down Aldrich’s proposition.

“We’re all facing the same things that’s inflation, supply chain,” Konderla said. “Every year money not spent in that year is put forward into the fund balance to be spent later. Fund balance spiked in fiscal years 21-22, that was COVID. Things were shut down, projects weren’t able to be done, so now the county is trying to catch up with those projects.”

When asked about planning for the future, Aldrich said those plans should be in the capital improvements program.

“It’s not there it’s all subjective ideas of what we might need, what we might want to do,” Aldrich said.

Some of those projects as well as future project that the county are looking at include the medical examiner’s office, a new court, an emergency communications district, competitive pay for the sheriff’s office, work on roads and bridges, and filling open positions.

“It’s very difficult to make these decisions,” Konderla said. “Today going in I didn’t feel great about what was proposed, so the compromise is what I put forward. I think people are counting on us to make wise decisions. I feel like that was something the compromise did today. I hope we work better as a commissioners court moving forward.”

You can read the full letter sent to commissioners by the Republican Party of the Brazos Valley below.