The Wharton County Commissioners Court approved the 2018 Annual Operating Budget with a new tax levy of $.4750 (per $100 of value) and operating expenditures of $24,706,647 on Sept. 11.

2018 looks to be a very promising year for Wharton County as local county government remains 100 percent debt free for a sixth consecutive year and we continue to operate our law enforcement, drainage and four precincts on essentially the same tax dollars we did some 10 years ago in 2009.

The below chart outlines county spending over the past 10 years:

Expenditures Tax Rate

2009 $24,166,706 $ .54584

2010 $22,533,689 $ .54376

2011 $21,250,001 $ .53183

2012 $20,092,730 $ .53022

2013 $19,599,649 $ .50215

2014 $20,144,918 $ .48806

2015 $20,690,729 $ .45999

2016 $21,734,692 $ .49000

2017 $22,052,841 $ .49000

2018 $24,706,647 $ .47500

From the outset, precinct commissioners prepared a very conservative 2018 operating budget utilizing an effective tax rate of $ .46289 per $100 of value.

After in-depth discussions with department heads and public representatives, county leaders believed it was in our taxpayers’ best interest to strengthen our judicial system by employing a third assistant district attorney, two full-time deputy clerks (one county and one district) and four additional jailers.

To fund these needed positions, representatives agreed to a slight $.01211 rate increase which brought the new property tax levy to $.4750 (This rate is 1.5 cents less than county residents paid in 2016 and 2017).

As one of the area’s principal employers, Wharton County recognizes its’ responsibility to maintain employee salaries at levels comparable to other job markets in order to retain and reinforce qualified staff.

For years, Wharton County has sought to compensate employees by absorbing premium increases in employee health coverage; maintaining longevity pay for eligible workers; and enhancing employee’s retirement whenever possible.

Regrettably, by holding the line on annual spending, the county traditionally lags behind neighboring cities and counties in providing meaningful salaries.

In planning for 2018, commissioners court approved $870,000 in employee pay raises. This increased funding will provide a $3,000 gross pay increase (before taxes) to all full-time employees. The overall $870,000 sum will be appropriated from a $1.2 million payment in lieu of taxes Exelon Corporation will be submitting to Wharton County for the next 10 years. Please take note: Your individual property taxes will not be raised to pay for this 2018 pay increase.

Looking forward, it is important to note Wharton County continues to experience strong county-wide economic development with the injections of new job opportunities and added investment dollars.

In particular, the Exelon Corporation recently completed a $750 million Phase 3 expansion of its existing gas-powered electric generation plant just east of Wharton on Hwy. 60.

From this single project, Exelon Corporation has introduced 700 construction jobs and 17 new primary jobs into Wharton County. Additionally, Exelon will be injecting hundreds of thousands of new tax dollars into the county, Wharton schools, Wharton County Junior College and several local Emergency Service Districts.

Wharton County will use these new revenues to fully fund the 2018 pay raises.

As county judge, it has always been my goal to promote the sharing of information and to do whatever is needed to enhance our taxpayers’ understanding of how county government operates and why we do what we do. People and government working together is the key to efficient county operation and continued future success.

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