As we approach a New Year, today’s column looks back at some of Wharton County’s many 2022 accomplishments.
Continuing to improve taxpayer awareness and involvement:
Through biweekly radio interviews, monthly newspaper columns and various civic and stakeholder gatherings, your elected county officials continued sharing important information and solicited taxpayer input into how and why local tax dollars get spent.
Adopting our eleventh consecutive deficit-free operating budget:
Once again, your elected commissioners successfully kept our county’s operating expenses at or below anticipated revenues while continuing to lower our annual tax rate. Wharton County’s current $0.42479 levy ranks 8th out of our 23 local taxing entities and comes in 189th of Texas’ 254 counties (lowest 25 percent).
Continuing our commitment to remain 100 percent debt free:
Wharton County has remained 100 percent debt free since February 2012. This commitment ensures all county tax dollars are spent on daily operations and not paying high interest rates, lending fees and bond premiums.
Purchasing $4.2 million in much-needed equipment without raising taxes or borrowing money:
Your elected representatives continued using surplus savings to fund a $400,000 murder trial, purchase needed precinct and drainage equipment, seven sheriff patrol cars, law enforcement radios, LED lighting upgrades, power washing the courthouse, computer upgrades and constructing a Training and Emergency Operations building.
Continuing upgrading county-wide drainage systems:
County officials expensed over $2.6 million in 2022 drainage improvements that included significant clearing of trees, widening ditches and - in some places - installing new culverts and drop pipes. Our projects list included Bear Bottom, Lake Nett, West Mustang Creek, FM 1161, CR111, CR 133, Caney Creek, Peach Creek and Pecan Valley.
Continuing seeking and promoting county-wide cost sharing projects:
Precinct commissioners and local municipalities continue collaborating through the sharing of expenses, machinery and manpower.
Recent collaborations include:
Continuing work with our cities to develop a county-wide transportation plan that promotes, protects and prepares Wharton County for I-69 expansion projects. TxDOT continues their $208 million expansion of I-69 from Kendleton to Hungerford. In early 2023, TxDOT will let the next $225 million expansion project that further extends the I-69 interstate from SH60 (Hungerford) to FM 961 (Wharton road to Crescent).
Sponsoring approximately $650,000 in Texas Community Development Block Recovery Grants to replace sewer lines in Louise and purchasing emergency generators for the Boling Wastewater and Louise Water Districts;
Contributing $98,000 to Wharton County Junior College for our county-wide Senior Citizenship Program (Meals on Wheels).
Obtaining over $30 million in the following state and federal grants to enhance county revenues:
$11,758,516 CDBG Flood Mitigation Grant that will fund three shovel ready drainage projects at or near Blue Creek (El Campo), Boling Township and the City of East Bernard;
$8,100,000 U.S. Department of Treasury Rescue Grant that will enable our commissioners to refurbish about 85 miles of county roads;
$6,900,000 CDBG MIT Grant to provide additional river gauges and map the entire San Bernard River Basin;
$2,243,000 HUD CDBG Block Grant for local floodplain Buyout Program;
$788,000 Texas Community Development Block Grant funding will enhance the diversion channel north of Lake Nett to significantly enhance drainage toward the north into Baughman Slough;
$613,000 CDBG-DR Grant will upgrade the CR 130 Diversion Channel located within the Jarvis Creek watershed;
$427,000 CDBG Grant for improvements to Caney Creek near Waterhole;
$285,000 CDBG-DR Grant will provide cross-culvert drainage improvements on CR 150 and CR 133;
$480,000 Indigent Defense and Attorney General Grants will provide added funding to our local judicial courts;
$368,000 Texas Juvenile Justice Department Financial Grant that funds over 80 percent of Wharton County’s Juvenile Probation services;
$250,000 State Law Enforcement grants for radios and mitigation activities;
$120,000 U.S. Elections Assistance Grant for security software;
$100,000 TCEQ Solid Waste Grant for new building at Transfer Station;
$79,000 in combined library support grants from the M.G. & Lillie Johnson Foundation;
$34,200; Mary Louise Dobson Foundation;
$4,500, Gulf Coast Medical Foundation and others.
Your Precinct Commissioners continued their participation in TxDOT’s Bridge Replacement program and received $1.2 million in grant funding for major bridge construction on County Roads 403, 407, 448 and 465.
My fellow citizens, 2022 was another tremendous year of achievement and opportunity despite the economic hardship and uncertainties lingering from our struggling national economy. As we prepare for 2023, please know your precinct commissioners remain committed to lowering local property taxes while seeking additional grant funding to pave roads and clear more ditches.
Have a Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year!