Athens Review, Athens, Texas

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January 26, 2013

GUEST COLUMN: 2012 was a year of challenges, growth

ATHENS — The start of fiscal year 2012 for Henderson County began with fine tuning of several activities from 2011, which included the county’s redistricting, finalizing the move into the Henderson County Annex and finishing work on the new county phone system.

By the end of the first quarter, work commenced on the most challenging issue facing Henderson County in 2012 — the 2013 county budget.

  Throughout most of 2011, Commissioners Court worked on redistricting Henderson County, a process required by state law every 10 years. When redistricting was finalized in 2012, Commissioners Court had reduced the Justice of the Peace and constable precincts from six to five and reduced Henderson County voting precincts from 31 to 27 voting boxes at 26 locations.

The move into the Henderson County Annex was complete in early 2012, moving county offices into the former Prosperity Bank building. The move was completed with very little expense to the county, as the county utilized the building in its current form and made the space work without any renovations to the building.

Commissioner Ken Geeslin led a project in obtaining a new phone system for county offices, as part of the County Annex move. Geeslin, working with Henderson County’s Information Technology (IT) Department, was able to replace the existing outdated phone system with a modern system and provide phones for the new County Annex and the entire county’s Athens campus. The county immediately benefited in cost savings. When the system is paid in 2014, the county will realize cost savings in excess of $60,000 per year. Over the life of the equipment a total of $632,000.00 will be saved as compared to previous cost of phones used by the county.

The county budget process started when the County Judge’s Budget was submitted in July of 2012, and the process was not complete until the budget was passed by Commissioners Court in September 2012. With property values holding steady to slightly declining, and with a steep decline in out-of-county inmates, a shortage in projected revenues of approximately $600,000 was created. Each line item in the county’s budget was closely scrutinized. When streamlining of the county budget was completed, the Commissioners Court in a combined effort with other elected officials and department heads had reduced the county’s budget in the amount of approximately $1,200,000 and had balanced the budget without raising taxes.

Commissioner Ronny Lawrence should be commended for his work on the insurance committee, holding down insurance costs, and Commissioners McKinney and Geeslin for their work on the McKinney/Geeslin report. The report compared the last five years of increased costs to revenues and was helpful in looking at the 2013 budget challenge and future county budgets.

After many months of evaluation in the IT Committee, the Commissioners Court approved the purchase and installation of new audio/visual equipment in three courtrooms. Additionally, the county’s IT Committee started the laborious task of reviewing Judicial Software packages to replace the aging Able Term Judicial Software, which will cease to be supported by the vendor in 2014. The county hosted several workshops with two possible software vendors, so the Judicial Package software users could provide input and suggestions.

The Commissioners Court worked with the Henderson County Appraisal District in its obtaining of Pictometry Aerial Imagining & ERSI Mapping Software. These incentives will have great benefit to the Henderson County 911, Sheriff’s Department, volunteer fire departments and to county commissioners. The software is expected to be implemented in 2013.

The Year of 2012 came to a close with the retirement of Commissioner Joe Hall. Henderson County Commissioners Court would like to congratulate Hall on his retirement after serving 12 years on the court.

Richard Sanders has been Henderson County’s county judge since 2010.

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