Let me get this straight. I just recently learned about the county attempting to collect on approximately $7,800 in overtime pay for a sheriff’s deputy that was billed under a federal order for accrued comp time. I really tried to pay close attention to all the overtime issues with the sheriff’s office during the summer, but I think I was too distracted by the huge water bills I was paying along with the shock of the upcoming property taxes that I am slated to have to pay in January. So forgive me for missing some of the details, but it looks to me that the county attempted to pass the buck to the city for employee pay that they were directly responsible for. In other words, the city has their 20-year-old contract with the county to provide law enforcement inside city limits. If the county showed a shortfall, the county is responsible for the payment. My hat goes off to some of our county commissioners for agreeing with the city administrator, Kelly Bloodworth. Residents of Henrietta should be appreciative that she defended the city in correcting this wrong.
The last time I checked, as a resident of the city of Henrietta and Clay County, I pay both city and county taxes. Shouldn’t some of my county taxes be used to provide basic law enforcement from the sheriff’s department inside city limits? Maybe A.J. Peek is on to something by suggesting that the current contract should be reviewed. Clay County has a population of around 10,000 residents. Of this total, approximately 3,200 live inside the city limits of Henrietta. No offense to the neighboring towns in our area, but none of them are paying in excess of $1.50 per $100 in valuation for both county and city taxes. Something has to be done immediately to diversify the local tax base so property owners in our fine city and county are not squeezed anymore. I attended the two special tax meetings held at city hall this summer, and I can tell you that our city council has their work cut out for them. I did not realize the dire situation until speaking with each of the current councilmen. I did not know that the city was basically out of money and insolvent at the end of their fiscal year 2010. As costs go up each year and the value of property here locally stagnates, the money has to come from somewhere.
Through some research, I uncovered three common ways that towns of similar size have chosen to diversify their tax bases. These include: An increase in retail businesses, new manufacturing facilities, or new taxes derived from consumption/sales tax (the most common are taxes on alcohol sales and 4A/4B taxation). It will be interesting to see which blueprint that city and county leaders choose to follow in order to provide a prosperous future for us all. I’ve seen way too many towns in West Texas that have fallen off the map with declining populations and horrible infrastructure. As voters, we must be open minded to listen to all possible solutions, or I fear that our local governments will tax and spend us all to death as we witness our streets, water, basic services and other infrastructure collapse around us.