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County budget process continues

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DIANA BUCKLEY
Ellis County Communications
ELLIS COUNTY - Public hearings regarding the county's proposed tax rate and proposed budget for fiscal year 2007-2008 will be held on Sept. 10, during a regularly scheduled meeting of the Commissioners' Court at 10 a.m. A second hearing on the proposed tax rate will be held on Sept, 17 at 10 a.m. in the Commissioners' Courtroom.

'Because the voters approved a bond for the new court building, we are required to include that in our tax rate consideration,' County Judge Chad Adams told Commissioners.

'So that tax rate, without any increases in maintenance and operations or lateral road - only interest and sinking - would move the tax rate to .393607.'

Adams further explained Monday's record vote -which was unanimous — set a ceiling for the tax rate for the upcoming fiscal year.

'Your tax rate could not go any higher than that, but it could decrease,' he said.

Additionally, the court voted not to extend cost of living raises to elected officials in the upcoming budget.

'One exception is for County Court at Law 1 and 2, because by statute the state has set that salary for us,' Adams said. 'The caveat is that we will get a 60 percent reimbursement from the State for those salaries.'

'Instead of the current $35,000 reimbursement we receive,' added Special Projects Director Holly Davis.

In order to comply with Senate Bill 600, the judges for County Court at Law #1 and #2 will earn $134,262 in the coming year.

In scheduling Commissioners' Court meetings for FY 2007-2008, the Court approved a suggestion by Commissioner Heath Sims, pct. 3, to move December's second meeting to the Friday before Christmas rather than the Wednesday after, to accommodate staff members who might want to vacation with their families during the school holiday.

Sims also suggested a change in the County holiday schedule.

'If we could substitute October 13 (Columbus Day) for January 21 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day), it would give us a balance of holidays throughout the year,' Sims said. 'I would make that as an amendment.'

'I respectfully disagree with you on this item and wish to keep the January 21 Martin Luther King holiday in the schedule,' said Adams.

Sims's motion failed for lack of a second, with the Court subsequently approving the holiday schedule as originally presented.

Several items were posted on the agenda for discussion only, including a presentation about legislative changes to the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) and the Low Income Vehicle Repair Assistance Program (LIRAP) from Air Check Texas; a public meeting regarding an updated order for Ellis County On-Site Sewage Facility Rules and Regulations; clarification from the Human Resources director regarding the participation of part-time employees in the Texas County and District Retirement System; the possible need for review of the Ellis County Personnel Policy Manual; and potential changes to the Ellis County Animal Control Ordinance.

'This issue affects me personally,' said Commissioner Bill Dodson, pct 2. 'I have a farm, and I run my dog loose out there. Under these rules I could be fined.'

Commissioner Ron Brown, pct. 4, said he recalled the circumstances surrounding the ordinance's initial approval.

'It was when John Gage was Sheriff - a little girl was attacked by a Doberman pinscher,' he said. 'We needed an ordinance. We do need to tighten it up a bit.'

Assistant County Attorney Lee Auvenshine said the legal staff would be happy to research the issue.

'I am hearing that you would like to see us look at removing strays or unwanted dogs from the ordinance,' Auvenshine said. 'So the Sheriff's Department can focus on vicious animals - either we've seen them attack, or know them to have attacked, or they appear to be rabid.'

In other business, Commissioners:
·Approved a work order under an interlocal agreement with Milford ISD for parking lot repairs;

·Approved a road abandonment to close Buchanan Drive in Quail Creek Village;

·Approved an order acknowledging the abandonment of 20 feet of a former County right-of-way;

·Approved a proclamation declaring September 15, 2007 as Moral Courage Day in Ellis County;

·Approved an interlocal agreement with the City of Mansfield, Ellis County, and Reinvestment Zone Number One;

·Authorized issuance of a letter of intent for the purchase of real property on Sonoma Trail in Ennis, Texas for the site of a sub-courthouse, contingent upon conveyance of clear title to the property and other legal considerations;

·Authorized the County Judge to enter into a lease contract for a building at the corner of Monroe and Franklin Streets for $500 a month;

·Approved Election Day polling locations and the Early Voting schedule for the November 6, 2007 election;

·Approved two lease agreements for AutoMark voting equipment;

·Approved a 90-day pilot recovery agreement with AIM Healthcare Service, authorizing AIM to conduct financial audits of participating healthcare providers and make credit balance recoveries;

·Approved the FY 2007-2008 Payroll Schedule;

·Voted not to raise the contribution rate of retired county employees covered under the County's health insurance plan;

·Approved changes to the Sheriff and Constable fees, effective January 1, 2008;

·Approved purchase of steel outside of the bid book for repairs to a bridge in Precinct 1, in the amount of $130.40;

·Approved a contract for SAFE Software for Septic Maintenance Contract tracking;

·Allowed a request for a variance relating to the fire hydrant requirement to fail for lack of a motion;

·Granted a variance relating to road frontage to allow a citizen to build a home on property he has owned since 1986;

·Amended the On-Site Sewage Facility Rules and Regulations (copies available at the Department of Development);

·Tabled a proposal to declare items as surplus and place them up for auction;

·Took no action on a replat, a preliminary plat, and a final plat under the Department of Development; and

·Took no action regarding renewal of employee medical and dental benefits.

A special meeting has been called for Thursday, August 30, at 12:30 p.m. in which Commissioners will consider renewal of and/or possible modification to the medical and dental benefits through the Texas Association of Counties Health and Employee Benefits Pool. Options include increasing the prescription drug benefits from no yearly deductible to a $100.00 yearly deductible with co-payments remaining the same.

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