By WILL CONLEY
Hays County Precinct 3 Commissioner
Hays County property taxes are going up again, but they didn’t have to.
In a four-to-one vote, the county judge and commissioners voted to add another 1.42 cents to the property tax rate, raising it to 46.92 cents per $100 of taxable valuation. I was the lone opposition to the tax increase. Under the 2010 fiscal plan, Hays County will collect $4.4 million more in property taxes than in 2009, with about $1.1 million coming as a direct result of the property tax increase.
I voted against this tax increase because it was unnecessary and out of touch with Hays County families and businesses. As a result of the national economic recession, more people are unemployed and businesses are struggling. Families all across the county are tightening their belts and your government—at all levels—should do the same.
During the county budget negotiations, I proposed several budget cuts that would have eliminated the need to raise property taxes altogether. Moreover, my proposals would have also continued to fully fund important, voter-approved road and park projects as well as increasing funding to local social service organizations whose resources are strained by the effects of the recession.
In an attempt to reduce county expenses, I proposed exactly $1,546,222 in budget cuts. My proposals included a countywide hiring freeze except for emergency dispatchers. Many other local governments have used hiring freezes as an effective means to cut costs. Additionally, I called for cuts in county legal expenses, contingency items, capital equipment purchases, employee bonuses, and a three percent cut in non-personnel funding. These are all items that could handle a reduced funding level during the coming year without impairing the level of service that citizens expect.
I also proposed a reduced level of funding for the county’s new Government Center. I agree with my colleagues on the court that the Government Center is a necessary project. I disagree, however, that it needs to cost so much. (A full list of my cost savings proposals can be found on my website, www.commissionerconley.com.)
This was a tough budget year, and I don’t believe that the budget my colleagues supported was altogether irresponsible. However, I know that we could and should have done better. Making cuts to a budget is never easy, but during tough economic times, citizens deserve a government that acts responsibly and keeps spending in check. They certainly don’t deserve tax increases that could have been avoided.
Will Conley (R-San Marcos) was first elected Hays County Commissioner in 2004. He can be contacted at www.commissionerconley.com.
(Editor’s note: Along with this piece, Conley submitted the following proposals for savings he made during the 2010 budget process. Additionally, Conley said he has “taken action to” suspend work on the Precinct 3 county office until economic conditions improve, and cut his Precinct 3 operating budget.)
* $500,000 savings from the county building fund
* $245,000 savings from a three percent cut to non-personnel items
* $235,000 savings in a one-year elimination of employee bonuses
* $157,000 savings by delaying new hires (except dispatchers)
* $120,000 savings from the county road line item
* $87,222 savings in capital equipment expenses
* $72,000 savings by using reserves to pay for capital improvements
* $50,000 savings from reducing county legal expenses
* $25,000 savings by funding the Hays Trinity Groundwater District at current levels
* $20,000 savings from contingency reductions
* $20,000 savings from the dispute resolution center
* $15,000 savings from Envision Central Texas