Proposal to cut Pct. 3 Road and Bridge budget; Commissioner Perry calls it retaliation

Ellis County Precinct 3 County Commissioner Paul Perry.

ELLIS COUNTY — The 2015-2016 proposed budget has been released by Ellis County Judge Carol Bush and residents in Commissioner Precinct 3 are irate. Precinct 3 Commissioner Paul Perry is calling the significant reduction in his operating budget retaliation by Bush.

The proposed budget was released at 4:43 p.m. on Friday, August 14. The property tax rate is proposed to remain at 0.413599 per $100 valuation. However, the county anticipates an increase in tax revenue because of higher property values and new property added to the tax revenue. A revenue increase of $3,521,273 is expected over the 2014-2015 budget, which amounts to an 8.058 percent increase. Of that, $1,128,166 is expected to be raised from new property added to the tax roll.

A three percent cost of living pay increase for all county employees is proposed in addition to a three percent cost of living increase for all elected officials that recently passed through the Ellis County Commissioners' Court despite major economists predicting inflation for 2015 to hover around 1.7 percent.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Paul Perry and Precinct 2 Commissioner Lane Grayson voted against the salary increase for elected officials.

Perry opted to sign an affidavit refusing his raise which results in his increase being returned to the general fund of the county budget thus directly benefiting taxpayers.

Grayson chose to accept his pay increase and hold a press conference to personally donate his raise to CASA and Gingerbread House.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Dennis Robinson, Precinct 4 Commissioner Kyle Butler and Bush voted in favor of the pay increase for elected officials.

After reviewing the proposed budget, most budget items appear to remain relatively the same compared to the current active budget, aside from the pay increases, with exception to the budget for Road and Bridge Precinct 3.

"Road and Bridge precinct 3's budget is the only Road and Bridge budget that is being cut. The other Road and Bridge budgets are being increased," Perry said.

Commissioner Perry's overall budget will see a reduction of $174,017 while the other three commissioners will see an increase in their overall budgets.

Robinson in Precinct 1 will see a $10,116 increase in his overall budget. However, his operating budget will be reduced by $25,455. His operating budget was $218,050 during 2014-2015 and will reduce by $25,455 to $192,595 in 2015-2016 if the proposed budget passes.

Grayson in Precinct 2 will see a $116,053 increase in his overall budget. His operating budget was $90,425 during 2014-2015 and will increase by $81,212 to $171,637 if the proposed budget passes.

Perry in Precinct 3 will see a $174,017 decrease in his overall budget. His operating budget will be reduced by $210,928. His operating budget was $280,155 during 2014-2015 and will reduce by $210,928 to a mere $69,227 if the proposed budget passes.

Butler in Precinct 4 will see the largest increase at $187,178 in his overall budget. His operating budget will also see the largest increase. His operating budget was $131,716 during 2014-2015 and will increase by $155,171 to $286,887.

Every commissioner is also budgeted $962,265 in funds in another account provided by the state. These amounts are traditionally equal among each commissioner precinct.

The reduction in Robinson's and Perry's operating budgets amount to the same increases that Grayson and Butler will see in their operating budgets. The total reallocation of funds amounts to $236,383.

Perry estimates that Precinct 3 has approximately 50 more miles than the next largest precinct, thus justifying the need for more funds and explains his outrage over the proposed reduction in his operating budget.

"Precinct 3 is the largest precinct by far, in terms of road miles," Perry said. "If one is considering the whole county, one has to consider that precinct 3, at over 290 miles — about 200 paved miles, is approximately 50 miles larger than the next largest precinct. Our total county revenues are up by about 8 percent, yet the Pct. 3 budget is going down while all three other commissioners' budgets are increasing."

There have been multiple instances where Perry and Bush have disagreed during public meetings and had tense discussions resulting in heated exchanges.

"This has every appearance of being retaliation," Perry said.

Bush has also been accused in the past of playing games with the Sheriff's budget and with Constable Terry Nay's budget over unrelated disagreements.

Despite the difference in the number of road miles and bridges in each precinct that need to be maintained, Bush believes the money between commissioner precincts should be allocated equally.

Bush wrote a column in another newspaper in which she stated, "The proposed budget contemplates an equal distribution among the four precincts of all road and bridge funds. The distribution targets areas demonstrating the fastest growth and need due to new subdivision construction, population density and high traffic counts. Commissioners will have the opportunity to consider and approve the proposed distribution or develop an alternative allocation."

"Regardless of the formula, the $280,000 increase dedicated in this next year to Road and Bridge, is a drop in the proverbial bucket. Rapid growth challenges our infrastructure and underscores the need to upgrade our roads countywide. If significant improvements are ever to be made, it will require the voice of the community to address scope and funding options."

The public is encouraged to weigh in on the proposed budget on August 24 at 3 p.m. and September 14 at 10 a.m. on the second floor of the Historic Ellis County Courthouse located at 101 W. Main St. in Waxahachie.