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COURT HEARS OPTIONS FOR 2011 BUDGET By working with departments, county budget office reduced budget shortfall from $10.4 million to $4.8 million
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEAugust 23, 2010
Edinburg – At a budget workshop held today, the Hidalgo County Commissioners’ Court received good news that many county departments managed to reduce operating costs, bringing the county’s projected budget shortfall for Fiscal Year 2011 down to $4.8 million from $10.4 million.
Additionally, the county’s fund balance is expected to reach an all-time high at year’s end, a remarkable achievement considering the widespread economic woes that plague the nation. Because the Commissioners’ Court operated from the most conservative revenue estimates from County Auditor Ray Eufracio this year, the fund balance is projected to be $24.9 million. A healthy fund balance is imperative to obtaining low-interest on capital improvement bonds, and a fund balance can be used to cover unexpected costs, such as those associated with natural disasters.
Dipping into the fund balance — which is expected to rise even more when Hurricane Dolly Public Assistance reimbursements are received from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency — is only seen as one option in balancing the budget, though. Commissioners’ Court put their heads together today to hear several solutions for making up the remaining $4.8 million shortfall. County Budget Officer Raul Silguero presented the following options:
• Additional departmental reductions in operational costs • Reducing funding to outside agencies such as several Hidalgo County museums, the county library system or other non-profits• Contracting with a private company for rural trash collection pick up to reduce county sanitation costsThe Commissioners’ Court said it would not consider an increase in the tax rate, which has held steady at $0.59 per $100 valuation of property for the past eight years. The court also rejected any increases in the effective tax rate.
Silguero also reported that he had met with the administrative judge of the Board of Judges, which sets indigent defense attorney pay rates, and no indication was made that rates would rise again. County Court at Law judges have also agreed to send more cases to the county’s Public Defenders Office. Additional attorney fees may be assessed to defendants as well. Silguero reported that he and his staff are working on developing a better monitoring system for the courts as well, so they will be more aware of their spending levels.
The Commissioners’ Court indicated that reducing salaries across the board should still be considered, and it asked that no reduction in funding for programs aimed at improving the lives of low-income residents be made. Such programs include the Upper Payment Limit (UPL) program that leverages county funds to get federal Medicaid money for indigent health care or the VIDA program that helps people get education and training for jobs in high-paying career fields.
The county budget office will go back to the drawing board based on the court’s recommendations.
A notice of public hearing on the county budget will be published September 11, 2011. The proposed 2011 budget will be filed on September 21, 2010 with the County Clerk’s Office and the County Auditor’s Office. It will also be placed online on the county’s website, www.co.hidalgo.tx.us/budget. The Hidalgo County Commissioners’ Court must hold a public hearing and adopt the budget for Fiscal Year 2011 on September 28, 2010.