The county is proposing a tax rate of 44.8 cents per $100 valuation — a 2.73-cent increase from last year. That means the average homeowner, whose home's value is about $82,000, would see about a $13 increase in taxes.
The effective tax rate, the rate needed to maintain current revenues, is 43.2 cents per $100 valuation.
Hale said Rusk County went with the effective rate last year, which resulted in an underfunded budget, and with increased costs this year, the proposed rate was the best option.
“We're trying to keep the county in good financial shape and keep providing the services our constituents expect us to,” he said. “I've seen in some counties where they're using up fund balance to keep from (raising taxes), (but) I hope our people would rather … keep us with a healthy fund balance so if we do have (things come up), we will be able to address those.”
Precinct 2 Commissioner Mike Pepper said the county wants to keep the same services and employees that it has in place.
Hale echoed Pepper, saying the county does not want to cut people who are “friends and neighbors,” but instead is trying to make good cost-effective decisions. For instance, no raises are factored into this year's proposed budget.
“We don't want to dip into our fund balance any more than we have to. We were able to carry over a little this year, even though we had some costs go up last year …,” Hale said.
“I hope people understand everyone on the commissioners court pays taxes. We don't want to go up, but we'd rather bite the bullet now than … keep … kicking the can down the road.”
Public hearings on the budget and tax rate are scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday and 6 p.m. Aug. 28. Both will take place at the Rusk County Courthouse in Henderson. The tax rate and budget are scheduled for possible adoption on Sept. 5.
Residents may view the full proposed budget on the county website, www.co.rusk.tx.us.