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County sets tax rate

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WAXAHACHIE – Ellis County Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the tax rate for the 2009/2010 fiscal year in a regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, Sept.14.

Using language required under Texas statutes, County Judge Carol Bush introduced the motion to approve.

"I move that property taxes be increased by the adoption of a total tax rate of $0.393599," said Bush.

"This includes $0.303191 for the purpose of maintenance and operation, $0.056900 for the payment of principal and interest on debt service and $0.033508 for the Farm to Market rate for the total county tax rate of $0.393599.

"This tax rate will raise more taxes for maintenance and operation than last year’s tax rate."

The tax rate is identical to the tax rate for fiscal year 2008/2009 but raises more taxes due to new property placed on the tax roll in the last year.

A related agenda item also approved by the court clarified the issue with its required wording.

"I move to approve ratifying that the adoption of the 2009/2010 Ellis County Budget will raise more total property taxes than last year’s budget by approximately $479,457 and of that amount 100-percent is tax revenue to be raised from new property added to the tax roll this year with the total tax rate of $0.393599 per $100 of taxable value," said Bush.

The approval of the tax rate brought to a close the months-long budget process, included a number of opportunities for public input, including posting of the proposed budget on the county’s website.

Four items relating to the Sheriff’s Department received approval during the meeting, with all of them resulting in cost savings.

A hangar sub-lease agreement with Automation Support, Inc. dba: Technical Support will result in donation of hangar space for the department’s fixed-wing airplane, a donation valued at approximately $200 per month.

Two contracts up for renewal were negotiated at lower-than-expected rates, with Correctional Food Services offering a decrease of two cents per inmate per meal (an effective decrease of four cents per meal) and Correctional Health Management agreeing to forego the increase allowed under the existing contract.

A vehicle for the department, priced at $26,315.35, will be purchased from drug seizure funds.

"Looks like the citizens win all the way around this morning," said Chief Deputy Dennis Brearley.

A report from the Texas Association of Counties Health and Employee Benefits Pool notified the court the county will receive $2,185 in employer rewards based on the participation of county employees in the Healthy County program.

Some 65 employees utilized health risk assessments through Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Texas, with another 24 completing a 10-week fitness challenge.

The county can use the funds to augment its ongoing employee health and safety initiative, designed to improve employee well-being while at the same time reducing the cost of insurance premiums.

"I would like to take the opportunity to thank Diana (Buckley) for her efforts – she’s done an excellent job," said Commissioner Dennis Robinson, pct. 1.

"A program is only as good as its administrator."

Buckley added that thanks should be extended to members of the Human Services staff for all of their hard work, particularly Donna Evenden, who coordinates the Employee Health Fair and other health and safety initiative programs.

It was with some large measure of regret commissioners accepted the resignation of Dr. Mackie Owens from the North Texas Behavioral Health Authority board of directors.

"It can be said about Mackie that she is faithful, and very committed to mental health issues and promoting mental health in the county," said Bush.

"Thank you for all your hard work on behalf of Ellis County."

Appointed to the then Dallas Area NorthStar Authority Board in 2001, Owens is the longest-seated member of the NTBHA Board.

Bush noted she has guided in the direct development of the current structure of that board, having served as vice-president and overseen a number of accomplishments, including increased jail diversion involvement, transition to 340B drug pricing at a large cost savings, and expansion of the mobile crisis programs making them more accessible to all NorthStar counties.

In stepping down, Owens took a moment to recommend the appointment of Janis Burdett as her replacement.

"We need someone who is articulate, who will speak up and champion the rural counties to make sure they are getting their share of the NorthStar funds," she said.

"Janis will do an excellent job."

Burdett has been employed by Ellis County’s Juvenile Probation department since 1996, where she serves as the Program Director.

Set to complete her Master’s degree in criminal justice with an emphasis in community corrections in about six weeks, she describes herself as "passionate" about mental health.

She is currently the chairperson of the Ellis County Community Resource Coordination Group, serves on the Mental Health/Substance Abuse task team, oversees the special needs diversionary program for juvenile services, and chaired the Ellis County Community Plan early in 2009.

"Thank you very much for your willingness to serve, Janis," Bush said. "It is nice when we can recommend someone from within our own ranks who has worked hard and has proven themselves."

In other business, Commissioners:

• Approved lease of one handicap voting machine (Auto Mark) to the City of Garrett;

• Took no action on a proposal to appoint a new member to the Emergency Service District #6 Board;

• Approved the renewal of the lease agreement between Ellis County and Edwin Spaniel for the term of Oct. 1, 2009 through Sept. 30, 2010 for agricultural purposes, for $6461.23 ($20.01 per acre) for 322.9 acres of the property referred to as the Ellis County Farm;

• Approved a work order under the interlocal agreement with the City of Ennis for chip seal overlay on Sleepy Hollow Road;

• Approved a revised application for appointees to the Emergency Service District Boards;

• Authorized renewal of the salary supplements to the justices on the Tenth Court of Appeals in the amount of $1624 for fiscal year 2009/2010, with Commissioner Heath Sims, pct. 3, voting against the measure;

• Approved the resolution for the 2010 Indigent Defense Grant Program assisting the county in the implementation of the provisions of the Fair Defense Act and the improvement of the indigent criminal defense services in the county, enabling Ellis County to obtain approximately $69,273 for indigent defense;

• Approved a letter of support for inclusion in the Service Area of Foreign-Trade Zone (FTZ) 113 to be signed by the County Judge;

• Took no action on a proposed interlocal agreement with TxDOT for asphalt resurfacing on Victoria Drive in Waxahachie;

• Corrected agenda item 8 .3 from Commissioners’ Court on 8/24/09 to reflect that the Roscoe #915 roller for Precinct 1 will be purchased from HGAC and not the Buyboard, with the cost remaining unchanged at $50,989 and the vendor designated as Closner Highway Equipment and not ESS;

• Granted two variances relating to road frontage, one in precinct 3 and one in precinct 2, and one accompanying simplified plat, under the Department of Development.

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