County Considers Budget Increases: Officials Aim to Keep Property Taxes at Same Rate
By Allen Essex, Valley Morning Star, Harlingen, Texas
Aug. 6–BROWNSVILLE — Cameron County officials are crunching numbers to fit huge cost increases into the 2008-2009 budget, with the aim of not increasing property taxes.
Budget Officer Xavier Villarreal told County Judge Carlos Cascos and commissioners Tuesday that he is calculating about $2.5 million in budget increases, including $425,000 to $500,000 for gasoline, $485,000 in cost increases for indigent health care, $1.1 million for operation of a new district court, $200,000 to conduct the November general election and $344,000 for autopsies.
He said he is also expecting revenue shortfalls in international bridge system revenue and park system revenues.
Also, there will be a need to add as much as $2 million to about $13 million already available to finance a 356-bed addition to the Carrizalez-Rucker Detention Center at Olmito. There is $13 million to $14 million left over from the $16 million settlement of a lawsuit against Landmark Organization for design and construction defects in the original detention center and sheriff’s office projects, staff members told Cascos.
The original estimate of the project to expand the detention center was $18 million, but is now likely to come in around $15 million, County Administrator Pete Sepulveda said.
After hearing a presentation from mental health administrators about long delays in transporting mental patients from local hospitals to and from jails and mental hospitals, Cascos said a solution must be found, even if it means taking deputies from some constables and designating them for a special group to transport mental patients.
Constable Abelardo Gomez said constables are sometimes reluctant to assign deputies to mental health transfers because paperwork is not complete or the deputies have to wait for long periods because of mistakes made by hospitals or mental health facilities.
Cascos asked that a special meeting be called quickly to set up a new system for transfers.
“We need to budget now for the transportation of mental health patients so it can be included in the new budget year (beginning Oct. 1),” the county judge said.
During a discussion of the upcoming Nov. 4 general election, Elections Administrator Rogelio Ortiz recommended that some of the county’s 86 polling places be combined because there are no extra machines in the event of breakdowns on election day.
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Copyright (c) 2008, Valley Morning Star, Harlingen, Texas
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