Letter to the Editor

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Dear Editor,

Things I have learned about the county budget process.
1.       Open Meeting Notices frequently arrive at local newspapers too late for publication before the scheduled Open Meeting.
2.       The County cannot provide public information document requests in PDF format.
3.       The proposed budget filed with the County Clerk’s Office for public review may change significantly from the final budget offered to Commissioner’s Court for adoption.
4.       Even though Commissioners passed a 0.43844 proposed tax rate on Sep 9, Judge Roe stated it would be 0.43773 even before the open meeting to discuss and adopt the rate was called to order.
5.       Line items with significant dollar amounts appear under generic labels such as capital outlay, construction, professional fees, or contingency fields with dollar amounts ranging from $40,000 to $500,000.  Without specific project appropriations under a separate line-item category, these amounts can be used at the discretion of the Court for another undeclared purpose.

State Comptroller’s County Budget Handbook quote:  “Items of capital outlay that are approved should be listed on the final budget with their itemized cost. This system will ensure the capital items approved will be the ones purchased.”

6.       Texas Transparency website sponsored by the Texas Comptroller’s office allows a county’s budget, meeting agendas, minutes, and “county check book” to be viewed online.  Robertson County is one of only a few counties that does not participate.

Budgets should reflect a realistic cost of operation, cover our debt payments, and allow for planned capital improvements…calls for transparency.  Reasonable contingencies and enough reserves to cover the first quarter of business until taxes are collected are certainly desirable.  Unfortunately, I still do not know if the reported “estimated cash balances” or “remaining balances” accurately reflect our “reserves” at either the beginning or end of the fiscal year.

Cathy Lazarus | Robertson County Resident

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