County to hold tax rate hearings beginning Sept. 4

Cameron County residents will have two opportunities to give their input on the tax rate for the upcoming fiscal year.

Cameron County residents will have two opportunities to give their input on the tax rate for the upcoming fiscal year.

Public hearings will be held at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday and Sept. 4 in the Commissioners Courtroom at the Dancy Building.

Officials issued a public notice stating a proposed tax rate of 44 cents per $100 valuation, though County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr. said there are no plans to approve a tax rate that high. Trevino said the county’s game plan is to adopt the same tax rate as last year.

Last year’s tax rate was about 41 cents per $100 valuation, and the effective tax rate is slightly higher but still about 41 cents per $100 valuation. The effective rate would ensure the county collects the same amount of tax revenue as last year, regardless of changes in property values.

Deputy County Administrator Xavier Villarreal, the county budget officer, said the county’s 2017-2018 tax revenue was $55.9 million, and the road and bridge fund was nearly $7.8 million.

Commissioners have several weeks of budget discussions ahead of them, wherein they will consider requests from directors in more than 50 departments. They plan to settle on a budget by Sept. 11 and vote to adopt it by Sept. 18, Treviño said. The county’s fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Trevino added the county is surveying all employee salaries to determine which are being paid lower, within or above market averages.

“With that in mind, we want to make sure we bring all county employees up to a living wage,” he said, which would be $10.10 per hour for Cameron County. “We’re looking into what that might cost.”

Villarreal said the effective tax rate is typically lower than the current tax rate in order to account for increases in property value.

The effective tax rate is slightly higher for the 2018-2019 fiscal year because Cameron County lost some property values last year by approving a freeport exemption, he said, which is a tax exemption for goods that will be in Texas 175 days or less before they are shipped out. Villarreal said the aim was to attract more businesses and manufacturing, ultimately bringing more jobs to the area.

Villarreal said because Cameron County is growing, keeping the tax rate the same as last year would result in more tax revenue.

“The goal is continued growth so we can keep the tax rate the same or lower it,” Trevino said.

It’s necessary because in a growing county “there’s a lot of need,” he said, such as the recently constructed warehouses for county public works.

The Dancy Building is located at 1150 E Madison St. in Brownsville.