Public hearings set on county budget, tax hike

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Smith County taxpayers are looking at a tax hike for fiscal year 2019 after county commissioners gave preliminary approval of a rate of 33.7311 per $100 valuation during their regular meeting this past Tuesday, (July 31).

The proposed tax rate compares to 2018’s rate of 33 cents per $100 valuation.

A series of public hearings was announced by Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran, one taking place during the commissioners’ regular meeting on Aug. 7 as well as two others: 9:30 a.m., Tuesday, Aug. 14 during the commissioners’ meeting and 5:30 p.m., Aug. 14 at the R.B. Hubbard Center, 304 E. Ferguson in downtown Tyler.

“We like to schedule a hearing in the evening so those folks who can’t be at the ones during the day can come in and voice their opinions,’’ Moran said.

The judge discussed the process of adopting the budget and was appreciative of the commissioners for their efforts.

“I would like to thank the court for a very in depth discussion (on the budget),’’ he said. “Most of the work was accomplished this summer and I truly appreciate the feedback in both our workshop sessions.’’

Budget workshops were held June 20 and July 17.

Earlier in the meeting, long time county workers were honored for their service, to which Moran reiterated his appreciation for their service in relation to the 2019 budget.

“We value our employees so much,’’ he said. “They are the heartbeat of what we do for our citizens and one of the most aspects is the investment back in our employees.’’

The budget includes a 2.9 cost of living raise for employees and elected officials with an additional $150 for insurance coverage, an increase from $670 to $820 per employee, Moran said.

“This is another way of saying we appreciate what you do and we want to help bear the cost with you on insurance,’’ he said.

BURN BAN

On Friday, Aug. 3, Moran issued a burn ban due to rapidly increasing wildfire conditions.

Moran’s order prohibits all outdoor burning for 90 days, unless the restrictions are terminated earlier.

Moran issued the “Order Prohibiting Outdoor Burning” after receiving the recommendation from the Smith County Fire Marshal’s Office and Office of Emergency Management.

Smith County Fire Marshal Connie McCoy-Wasson said in the previous two days, area fire departments battled six fires burning about 35 acres in Smith County.

On Thursday (Aug. 2), the humidity dropped dangerously low and winds picked up, increasing the risk of wildfires.

On Friday (Aug. 3) the Keetch-Byram Drought Index for Smith County was 667.

This index is to determine forest fire potential with ranges from 0 to 800. In the past, Smith County has issued a burn ban when the drought index falls around 700.

“The current hot, dry weather poses a serious threat of wildfires throughout Smith County, making it necessary to issue a burn ban until further notice,” Moran said.

He cautioned all Smith County residents to consider the seriousness of the burn ban.

Anyone needing more information about available assistance, or anyone with questions related to the burn ban call the Smith County Fire Marshal’s Office at 903-590-2655.

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