Athens Review, Athens, Texas

August 2, 2013

County budget workshops on Tuesday

Rich Flowers
The Athens Review

Athens — The Henderson County Commissioners Court begins a series of budget workshops on Tuesday, following the regular Court meeting.

 Commissioners will be looking at the proposed budget filed on Thursday by County Judge Richard Sanders, but they won’t have to do any cutting to make expenditures match revenues.

“The budget that I have filed is a balanced budget,” Sanders said.

Most of the line items in the $32.3 million package are similar to the 2013 document, but there are a few noticeable changes.

One major difference is in the amount of revenue projected for housing out-of-county inmates. The county received $168,120.01 for housing out-of-county inmates in 2012, but when the stream of prisoners dried up, they only budgeted for $50,000 in revenues last year.  The county has seen an increase in prisoners in 2013 and has earned almost $200,000 to date. Based on that information, Sanders added $400,000 in out-of-county prisoner revenues to the 2014 budget,

The proposed budget also includes $163,500 in tobacco-settlement revenues. The 2013 budget included $120,000 in tobacco settlement payments, but the actual amount exceeded that, coming in at $154,000. Tobacco-settlement fees have decreased in recent years from the $735,554.78 check received in 2005.

Tobacco settlement funds have been coming to the county since 1998 when the state of Texas reached a settlement in a multi-billion dollar suit against the tobacco companies. The amount is based on the amount of unreimbursed indigent health care they report to the Texas Department of State Health Services. The settlement deal reached in 1998 was struck with the idea that the funds would help offset the costs of indigent health care.

The Sheriff’s Office jail operations expenditures grew in the proposed budget. The budgeted amount for 2014 is $5,611,403, up from $5,294,480 in 2013.  The increase is due to additional money for salaries and benefits.

Unless the commissioners propose a change, most salaries in the county will stay the same in 2014. The county, however, will be paying more for benefits, principally in the area of health insurance.

On the expenditures side, because of the primary and general elections set for 2014, the amount budgeted to Elections Administrator Denise Hernandez office for  election expenses was increased from $44,795 to $80,000. They spent $79,468.28 in the presidential year of 2012 on elections, but only $45,433.63 in 2011.