On Sept. 13, Wharton County Commissioners Court approved the upcoming 2022 Annual Operating Budget using a significantly lower $.42479 tax levy.
• 2021 No New Tax Rate - $ .42479
• Current 2020 Tax Rate - $ .45869
• Decrease in Tax Rate (-) $ .03390
As in past years, elected county officials are determined to maintain the same basic spending levels we have operated on for well over a decade. With local property evaluations skyrocketing, the Central Appraisal District recently certified Wharton County’s 2021 Net Taxable Value at $4,061,721,395, which is $292,833,902 above last year’s certified values of $3,723,887,493.
• 2021 Certified Appraisals $4,061,721,395
• 2020 Certified Appraisals $3,723,887,194
• Increase in Appraisals $ 337,834,201
Theoretically, when property valuations increase, all governmental tax levies should decrease. If an entity stays with their current tax rate, or fails to drop to the no new revenue tax rate, then they are raising your taxes. As stated above, Wharton County will be lowering the adopted tax rate to ensure no new tax revenues from existing properties.
Three major governmental funds (General, Road & Bridge, and FM&LR) have anticipated budget revenues totaling $26,156,829 and standard operating expenditures totaling $26,138,293.
(The following table provides a 13 year comparison of county spending.)
Please note, Wharton County government remains 100 precent debt free for a ninth consecutive year.
Expenditures Tax Rate Owed Debt
2009 $24,166,706 $ .54584 $4,970,000
2010 $22,533,689 $ .54376 $4,300,000
2011 $21,250,001 $ .53183 $3,665,000
2012 $20,092,730 $ .53022 $2,915,000
2013 $19,599,649 $ .50215 $745,000
Expenditures Tax Rate Owed Debt
2014 $20,144,918 $ .48806 $ 0
2015 $20,690,729 $ .45999 $ 0
2016 $21,734,692 $ .49000 $ 0
2017 $22,052,841 $ .49000 $ 0
2018 $24,721,360 $ .47500 $ 0
2019 $24,778,224 $ .47396 $ 0
2020$25,781,846 $ .46240 $ 0
2021 $25,495,404 $ .45869 $ 0
2022 $26,138,293 $ .42479 $ 0
Elected Commissioners Court currently purchased needed capital on a pay-as-you-go basis. If we realize extra savings, we purchase needed machinery. The county’s upcoming 2022 budget utilizes $4,247,200 in excess savings to purchase the following Capital and One-Time Expenditures:
• General $400,000 for murder trials; seven law enforcement vehicles; S.O. Training & Emergency Ops Bldg; LED lighting upgrades to county buildings; HVAC unit; law enforcement equipment; courthouse phone system; grant admin services; temp maintenance consult; temp mowing; two DPS Radars; river gauge, and local grant match for emergency mgmt morgue trailer.
• Road and Bridge $1,600,000 for county-wide capital equipment; covering for recycling area at solid waste station; $350,000 contingency specifically designated for unforeseen bridge repairs; and $150,000 contingency for actual road materials (not machinery or maintenance.) We want to build and rehabilitate more roads and bridges in 2022.
• FM&LR $350,000 for one drainage bulldozer and $50,000 for engineering services. Upgrading countywide drainage remains a top priority.
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 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 bolstering employee’s retirement whenever possible. Unfortunately, by holding the line on annual spending, the county traditionally lags behind neighboring cities and counties in providing meaningful salaries. Thankfully, we saw some significant gains in the 2021 economy that will allow Wharton County Commissioners Court to budget a 3 percent cost of living adjustment for hardworking employees; enable the county to cover a $200,000 increase in employee healthcare premiums; and fund an $11,000 medical coverage increase for our valued retirees. These much deserved pay increases come without raising property taxes.
Wharton County continues to experience strong economic development with the creation of meaningful new jobs and the injection of large sums of new investment dollars. A number of existing businesses have expanded their local operations and are increasing workforce. Five solar farms are gearing up to bring $1.3 billion in new county-wide investments. Area residents should anticipate additional job creation and development revenues from the new El Campo Railyard Project and several gas pipelines looking to connect in the coming year.
My fellow citizens, please know that your elected County Commissioners are mindful of the many challenges of COVID-19 and how hard it continues to be for local business owners and their employees to keep the doors open and put food on the family table. We continue to be thoughtful and conservative while managing your tax dollars.