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With the priority of maintaining the County’s AA+ bond rating, County Judge Pat Deen has submitted his first proposed budget.
“We have a structural deficit of the county’s financial position that needs to be resolved.” Deen said. “Why is this so important to fix now? If we don’t, the next phone call I’m getting will be from our bond holders concerned about our bond rating going down.” Parker County is required to reserve ninety days of operating income in their fund balance in order to maintain a strong bond rating and low interest rate on bond projects. The current adopted budget draws 5.6 million dollars from the General Fund to balance the budget. Fund balance dropping below the ninety-day threshold would place the County at risk of jeopardizing the current transportation debt. “The proposed budget will be presented to Commissioners’ Court in the coming weeks with some tough decisions for us to make. I am confident we will work together as a team to get this solved,” said Judge Deen.
The proposed total tax rate of 37.3068 cents per $100 valuation is a 1 cent decrease from the current year’s rate of 38.3806 cents per $100 valuation. Judge Deen would like to have cut the rate more, but the 5.6-million-dollar deficit in the current budget limits the options available to the County. “It is not acceptable to balance a budget by reducing General Fund balance. Going forward, I will recommend to the court that we adopt policies and procedures to prevent this from happening except under extreme circumstances. Annual contributions to our reserves are necessary to address emergencies, future planning, and growth,” Deen said.
Prioritizing the County’s fiscal well-being, budget workshops will be set in August and September. “The buck stops with me and the Commissioners’ Court. We need to take immediate action to insure the financial health of our County is maintained,” said Judge Deen. The current budget to be presented to Commissioners’ Court recommends lowering expenditures via freezing raises in salaries, delaying capital projects, and working with departments to significantly reduce budget requests. With all of these recommendations, there is still an approximately 1.3-million-dollar deficit to be addressed by the Court.