Union Grove takes a no vote on appraisal district budget

Published on Friday, 28 June 2013 19:54 - Written by BY PHILLIP WILLIAMS Special Correspondent

UNION GROVE — Trustees of the Union Grove Independent School District declined Thursday night to join the movement to veto the Upshur County Appraisal District’s proposed budget, as a board member’s motion to do so died for lack of a second.

Trustee Jeff Webb’s motion received no second from five other board members in attendance. The meeting then adjourned, meaning the board effectively approved the budget since an entity’s taking no vote on it is tantamount to accepting it.

Some 19 taxing entities fund the district. Of the 17 which have a say on approving its budget, nine must veto it by July 10 to negate it. At least five have, but the Union Grove board became at least the third to either formally disapprove a veto or decide against even voting on the issue.

Only hours before Thursday’s board meeting, the Ore City City Council approved a veto resolution by 4-1 vote.

Upshur County Precinct 1 Commissioner Paula Gentry asked Union Grove trustees for their veto Thursday before the board heard David Clay, chairman of the appraisal district’s board of trustees, explain why the budget included a controversial 5 percent pay raise for district workers.

Board members gave no reasons for their stances on the issue.

Mrs. Gentry said she didn’t oppose the budget “just because they were offering raises,” but also because of the county government’s tight finances. The commissioner, who took office last January, said the county budget had been reduced $2 million in recent years before a $995,000 budget shortfall recently surfaced.

She also objected that the district had had raises for five of the last six years, and that it was seeking a 5 percent raise instead of a “standard” 2 or 3 percent hike.

When school superintendent Brian Gray asked Mrs. Gentry if she foresaw the county raising taxes just to cover the county’s $4,000 share of the pay raise, she said no, “but it is going to set a precedent. ... $4,000 could do a lot of other things for us.”

Clay meanwhile told trustees his board proposed the pay raise because the Upshur district’s employee compensation is “way below” comparable counties’ appraisal districts, “and these (districts) are the people we have to compete with” for workers.

When his district hires appraisers, he said, it spends about $10,000 on having one certified. “You get those people trained, and then somebody will steal them ‘cause they pay more. We’re trying to get away from that,” Clay said.

“We’re not extravagant with your money,” he added. Compared to like counties, “we’re at the low end of the operating budget,” Clay asserted.

Trustee Rusty Dyar said the proposed budget would increase Union Grove ISD’s share of funding the budget by $2,500 — $1,100 of which would go toward the salary hike.

He and Trustees Gregg Grubbs, Tim Turner, Jody Day and Bennie Norris declined to second Webb’s motion on the budget. Another trustee was absent.