Residents who spoke during a public hearing Friday to address the county’s proposed tax increase were split in their opinions.
Justin Slawson voiced concern about the salary increases and money in the county’s savings account.
“We elected you guys to manage our money and our assets that you’re doing a not so good job of, then you’re asking us for more and more and that’s kind of an outrage,” he said. “We have a whole bunch of money in reserves, more than enough to do what all you want to do and you’re just asking for more money... We're all against your hype unless you work for the county.”
Robert Keller then told officials that they do an outstanding job and agrees with the increase.
“They just didn’t give this raise for the elected officials; they gave this raise to every employee in the county,” he said. “These individuals work hard. I may not always agree with them and they may not always be right but right now, I'm telling you this budget is the best for Erath County. These guys work hard and they’re elected officials and that’s what we elected them to do. Erath County is one of the best counties to live in because of the leadership we have.”
County Commissioner Dee Stephens made a closing remark stating that the commissioners are not trying to take residents’ money.
"The goal is to do what’s best for Erath County, whether it’s in the middle of the night, or on the weekends, wherever it’s at, we do what’s right,” he said. “On this budget, yes, we do have money in the savings account but if all of that money is gone, if something catastrophic happens, what are we going to do? Who is going to come help you? There’s more to the picture.”
County Judge Alfonso Campos said the proposed tax rate cannot be increased, only decreased.
"The decision to not pay the debt off right away and continue the payments is so that we do not incur additional debt because of the big projects that we want to go ahead and do,” he added.
Some of those projects include funding for improvements to radios and related infrastructure for the Erath County Sheriff’s Office, EMS, Fire; and funding for capital projects to provide additional office space and to address state-mandated security measures at county facilities.
“This is the proposal and that’s why we’re having hearings,” Campos said. “We’re going to take into consideration all of the comments that we get and we’re all going to go back to the table and see where we’re at with the projects that we feel like are very necessary to move forward to improve the services and the facilities of the county, to improve our communications and to continue paying our debt on the jail. We hope that we can come to an agreement on what the best direction to go is on this budget.”
Commissioners will meet Sept. 11 finalize the budget.