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October 7th, 2009
Liz Sumter's Blog: What your tax dollars buy

Hays County Courthouse.

Hays County Judge

The efficient use of your tax dollar is very important to me. I treat our county budget like I treat my own — save as much as I can, live within my means, and borrow only when necessary. This simple financial policy allowed us to get for Hays County an AA bond rating, an upgrade from A+.  This means we get lower interest rates when we borrow money for our major projects.

Because the county budget is based on your county property tax dollars, I thought you should know exactly what you are getting for your tax dollars. It’s your money; you’re entitled to know how it is being spent. As an example, let’s start with the average home value in the county — $165,000.00.  If your home value is $165,000.00, you would pay approximately $752.00 in county property taxes, or an increase of about $26.00 dollars more than last year. As to where that money goes, here’s a list of just some of the services:

* Law Enforcement (Deputy Sheriffs, Constables, SWAT, Drug Task Force, Animal Control, Crime Analysis, 911 Dispatch, Traffic Control, warrant services,  general enforcement of the law, etc.);

* Correction Facilities (staff, food and medical/dental/mental services for inmates as required by law, extradition, transportation, etc.);

* Health Department (immunizations, vaccinations, well child care, family care, prescription subsidies, indigent burial services, etc.);

* Public record services (birth/death/property records, county and district court case records, clerks for courts, records preservation, etc.)

* Homeland Security;

* Tax notice, collection and vehicle registration;

* Fire investigation and education;

* Justice System (prosecuting attorneys, district, county court –at-law judges and justice of the peace, court reporters, bailiffs, juries, law library, court collection, victim restitution, adult and juvenile probation services, juvenile detention center, etc.);

* County road maintenance and a flood warning system;

* Subdivision planning and review and environmental health inspections (restaurant, septic and trash dumping);

* County maps and reflective address signs;

* Election services;

* Veteran services;

* Dump stations and recycling services;

* 5 Mile Dam Park and Civic Center;

* Social services funding (senior groups, libraries, youth services, historical commission, EMS, cemetery maintenance, food bank, crime stoppers, women’s center, alcohol and drug abuse council, CARTS, etc.) to name a few; and

* All the support systems that go along with the above (human resources, budgeting, investment management, grant writing, public information and website, facility management, information services, etc.).

Beyond those traditional county funded services, we’ve added on or increased the following:

* Dedicated EMS and Fire Dispatching;

* Affordable Alternative Dispute Resolution Center (ADR);

* Affordable Small Business Insurance program; and

* Additional funding to social services that provide the basics to families.

Finally, the additional $26.00, in taxes, funds the $68 million of road projects and $10 million of park projects.

To get to where we are, we instituted significant cuts in the budget — cuts that will not affect the quality of services. Most of the cuts came from the elimination of nine unfilled positions. We also re-directed some of our savings to our infrastructure fund and programs that will save us money in the future.

As always, I want to hear from our citizens, so please feel free to send an email, make a phone call, or come to our regularly scheduled Commissioners Court meetings on Tuesday. As I like to say, my office may be in the County Courthouse, but the citizens own the building.

Liz Sumter (D-Wimberley) was elected Hays County Judge in 2006.

(Editor’s note: The above has been revised to show that the county’s bond rating has increased to AA from A+, instead of AAA from AA. Addendum: Sumter submitted the revision.)

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24 thoughts on “Liz Sumter's Blog: What your tax dollars buy

  1. Liz, thanks for this overview of how our property tax dollars are spent.

    However, my concern over the years has been the quetionable justification by the county of the ever-increasing annual property values, a.k.a., appraisal creep.

    In these harsh economic times how does the county justify that appraisal values continue to increase even though the real values of our properties have decreased?

    While this year home values fell 15% on average, appraisal values still were increased throughout most of the county. There is no real justification for these value increases.

  2. Why did Newstreamz allow Judge Sumter to cover up her original misstatement by rewriting the article after it was published? Why is the editor’s note vague as to the fact that Sumter artificially inflated the County’s bond rating (it reads as if the error is of unknown origin)?

    The editor could have included a correction in bold while leaving Sumter’s original release with the misstatement. Readers could then decide for themselves the motive to which they attribute Sumter’s inflation of the County’s credit rating.

  3. It sounds strange to me, too. I could (almost) understand typing AAA, instead of AA, but the original statement was that we went from AA to AAA, when, in fact, we went from A+ to AA.

    That’s no typo. That sounds like either a deliberate attempt to deceive the voters, or an elected official who was bragging about our bond rating, without even knowing what it was, which makes it hard to believe that any of her actions were taken with the intention of improving the bond rating. More likely, it just happened, she heard about it and decided to take credit.

  4. Isn’t this how the whole sub-prime mortgage melt-down got started… fudging on your credit rating…

  5. Mr. Wiley – the answer is YES. The County Judge did vote to raise your taxes.

    Judge Sumter could save us even more money by forgetting about serving on the bench (she’s the first to do so in decades) and taking a cut in pay. Does anyone know how much the supplemental pay for that extra duty is? $20,000? I really don’t know.

  6. Haven’t you guys got anything better to do than to jump to conclusions about intent based on typos?

    Our bond rating increased, isn’t that the point?

    You guys are like sharks in a bunny tank.

  7. I thought your point was about some guy’s spelling error. Perhaps you could be more articulate if you intended instead to comment on the minor increase of the bond rating.

  8. Pretty funny when django bitches at me with a rude comment for a spelling mistake and then goes on to gripe at everyone for making a big deal over a typo. Pot, meet kettle!

  9. Question: Why is the new Alternative Dispute Resolution Center and the Small Business Insurance program not accounted for in the FY 2010 budget? Also, how can Sumter claim an increase in EMS services when their budget went from 375,000 in 2009 to 350,000 in 2010? No other Hays County Community and Social Service had their budget cut in this fashion. Sounds like your typical selective transparency Sumter’s court has promised us.

  10. A spelling mistake and a typo are not the same thing.

    One is intentional. One isn’t.

    COS, I was assuming your spelling of “can” as “cna” was a typo. I suspect you didn’t mean to do that.

    I have a sneaking suspicion you think our County Judge’s actual last name is spelled with a “p” in it. Lots of people do. It is a common mistake, but it is a mistake.

    And “rude”? How very sensitive you are.

  11. The point is that a AAA bond rating is an exemplary bond rating, the best you can have. While a AA rating is good, it is not as good. This is like someone saying they had a 4.0 GPA on their resume, when in fact they had a 3.o GPA

  12. Yeah. But so did Sumter. And hey – if Peter Stern can Thank Liz for raising his taxes, then it couldn’t have been too bad of a decision. Trust me on this….

  13. Hey Lila,

    You just love to hassle everyone, don’t you?

    For the record, I did NOT thank Liz for raising our taxes. I did thank her for explaining where the tax dollars went.

    I also did not say I liked where our tax dollars go.

    You pick out what you like to think people stated, but that ain’t how it is.

    So, let’s just agree to leave each other alone in peace, okay? You were doing so well for a while, too. I actually started to think you would abide by our mutual promise.

  14. Sorry Peter. I sincerely apologize to you. Truly. I broke my toe a couple of days ago and I am incredibly cranky from the pain. Please forgive.

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