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Sept. 18 hearings set on new tax hike

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RUSTY WELLER

Ellis County Press

WAXAHACHIE - With the property tax rate poised to soar again, Ellis County residents will get a chance to speak out on the 2001 budget and tax issues at two Sept. 18 public hearings.

Residents first will focus on the county's budget for next fiscal year in a 10 a.m. meeting. Then, at 11 a.m., they will have an opportunity to ask questions and offer comments on setting next year's property tax rate. Both hour-long public hearings are scheduled for the commissioners' courtroom at 113 W. Franklin in Waxahachie.

Judge Al Cornelius admitted during Monday's Commissioners Court meeting a major property tax hike looms. Cornelius said a rate of '46 cents would cover everything' in the proposed budget,' but 41 cents presently is the proposed rate per $100 valuation.

If approved after the public hearings, a 41-cent tax rate would be a 20 percent increase over this year's a property tax rate of 33.139 per $100 valuation.

Thinking the question at hand was approving the 2001 budget, Commissioner Ron Brown at first voted no for setting the Sept. 18 hearings. 'I'd like to see us cut some more out of this,' he said of the proposed budget. When informed of the actual motion, Brown also voted for the date.

Earlier Monday the commissioners unanimously approved no increases in salaries, expenses and allowances of Ellis County officials. And later in Monday's meeting the commissioners chose neither to grant petition-backed Sheriff's Department raises nor offer an alternative salary proposal. Instead, the commissioners called for the request for 30-percent raises to be settled by the Nov. 7 general election.

Commissioner Charlie Waller further demonstrated the court's opposition to Sheriff's Department raises by saying voter approval would result in a 2.7-cent increase in property taxes.

'And it'll get salaries out of balance,' Waller said. 'In fact, some of these people will be making more than the sheriff.'

Judge Cornelius said approving the Sheriff's Department raises would cost the county $1.288 million, including jail personnel and detention officers. Commissioner Jerry Holland made a motion for the court to opt for the Nov. 7 election.

Cornelius said he reviewed the petitions and found they conformed to code and submitted them to Ellis County Elections Administrator Jane Anderson to certify signatures. 'She stopped at 5,170 because the (necessary) number was reached,' he said.

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