Liberty County sticking with last year’s tax rate for another year

Texas AgriLife Extension Agent Roy Flora introduced Eisha Jones as the new Prairie View A & M Co-op Extension Agent for Community Economic Development at the Liberty County Commissioners Court meeting on Aug. 13.

By Vanesa Brashier,

Liberty County will not raise the property tax rate in the upcoming fiscal year. At the Aug. 13 regular meeting of Liberty County Commissioners Court, commissioners voted to keep the current tax rate of $0.5788 per $100 in property valuation. This equates to $578 in taxes on a property valued at $100,000 and does not include taxes for schools and special districts for emergency services, drainage and water.

The county’s proposed budget for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2019 shows $37.8 million in projected revenue, up from the $35.27 million the previous year.

According to County Judge Jay Knight, the budget will raise more revenue from property taxes than last year’s budget by $3.78 million, or 11.22 percent. Of that amount, $1.355 million will come from new properties being added to the tax roll.

Commissioners also approved the county’s local elections in the Nov. 5 general election.

“We have a myriad [of elections] this time, so it’s going to be a fun time. The governor has officially ordered the special election to approve amendments that the Legislature passed. That’s the first one,” said County Clerk Lee Haidusek Chambers. “The second one is a local option election in Pct. 6 for alcohol sales. Strangely enough this will not affect the City of Cleveland or the City of North Cleveland. The rules are different and they have to vote on them separately. For the rest of Pct. 6, they will vote on whether to sell alcohol in its full form.”

Cleveland ISD’s $195 million bond referendum will be decided in the general election as will a sales tax increase for Emergency Services District No. 7 in Hardin. More details on how the ESD plans to use the sales tax money will be revealed in the coming weeks, said Klint Bush, ESD spokesperson.

Commissioners also approved a preliminary plat for Hidden Estates on CR 301 North, also known as Carter Loop. Hidden Estates is being developed by Tour 18, the same group that developed Encino Estates in the Kenefick area, said David Douglas, who oversees the county’s permits department.

“[In this preliminary plat], they are developing 10 lots that are all running 3-5 acres, and up to 10 acres. They are going to be ranchette-style homes. One restriction is the minimum 2,000 square feet and bricks-and-sticks homes. The other restriction is that all of the buildings have to be elevated two feet above the center line of the county road,” Douglas explained to commissioners court. “This is a little insurance for flooding because there are some water issues over in that area.”

Knight explained that the county is working closely with Tarkington ISD administrators to keep them informed on the development of the new homes.

“That’s what we do now so they will know what is coming their direction,” he said.

A grant application for $4.921 million in Hurricane Harvey-related funds from the Texas General Land Office was also approved by commissioners. If awarded, this money will be used to repair and update infrastructure in the county, such as roads and bridges.

“We have already approved the grant application for the housing buyout. In totality, that’s roughly $11 million in GLO grants the county could receive,” Douglas said.

A GLO rental housing grant is being used to make improvements to the public housing units at Dayton Park Apartments. Douglas told commissioners that work on the apartments is about 95 percent complete and includes new appliances, window treatments, windows, roofs and flooring. Commissioners approved a cash draw of $669K to Public Management, Inc., the grant administrator.

Commissioners denied a road use agreement between the county and Kinder-Morgan Pipeline. The pipeline company is reluctant to agree to the road use agreement because it includes preemptive and post-constructive fees.

“We feel like we are paying for things that we don’t know will happen,” a spokesperson for Kinder-Morgan Pipeline told commissioners at the meeting.

Pct. 1 Commissioner Bruce Karbowski argued that the county’s roads are rated for vehicles weighing less than 50,000 pounds and the pipeline company’s vehicles will be 80,000 to 100,000 pounds, which will certainly cause damage.

In other business, commissioners:

  • approved a bid for roadwork on CR 603 and CR 486 (Hatcherville Road);
  • approved the payment of $50,000 to Houston-Galveston Area Council of Government for a traffic study (the county’s portion is $20,000 with the three principal cities of Cleveland, Dayton and Liberty each paying $10,000 for the study; and
  • welcomed Eisha Jones as the new Prairie View A & M Co-op Extension Agent for Community Economic Development for Liberty County. Jones, who hails from Cleveland and is the founding director of Tuff Kids, was a financial adviser for Mass Mutual and a loan review specialist for First American Title. She has a masters degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix and bachelors degree from Oklahoma University.

Liberty County Commissioners Court meets on second and fourth Tuesdays of each month. Meetings are at 9 a.m. in the Liberty County Court at Law courtroom inside the county courthouse.

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