Judge Tab Thompson

Erath County Commissioners Court voted unanimously in a special session Monday to adopt the proposed budget and tax rate for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, and County Judge Tab Thompson lifted the burn ban.

Commissioners had banned outside burning for 90 days starting in early July. But with the sporadically heavy local rainfall over several days last week, the fire danger has dropped significantly. The lifting of the ban went into effect at 10 a.m. Monday.

"We have had a lot of rain, so we are just going to go ahead and lift it," Thompson said after Monday's meeting. "Around the first of October, we'll probably reevaluate it. We want to remind everybody to use caution when they burn."

Thompson said that rainfall totals of 5 to 7 inches over several days late last week made the difference.

The commissioners (Dee Stephens, Herbert Brown, Joe Brown and Scot Jackson) unanimously voted to approve the previously proposed tax rate of 0.4458 cents per $100 in property evaluation. They also voted by that same 4-0 margin to approve the 2018-2019 budget.

The vote came about three weeks before the official deadline, which is Oct. 1.

The tax rate for the current (2017-2018) fiscal year was 0.4700 per $100 of property valuation.

Paying off the remaining debt on the county jail expansion — about $4 million — will save Erath County $500,000 in interest, Thompson said.

"I think it was a really good business decision," Thompson said. "At this point the county is debt-free again, which is a good thing for Erath County taxpayers."

Public hearings on the tax rate and budget were held on Aug. 22 and Sept. 5.

Jennifer Carey, the county's tax assessor/collector, said that a general rise in property values helped make the numbers work out well.

"It was pretty well what I expected," Carey said. "Property values went up. That was probably just normal for our county. We had some property selling higher. We also had some growth, and that helps a lot."

County treasurer Donna Kelly said the remainder of the jail expansion debt will be paid off from county reserve funds on Oct. 1.