Seventy-five jobs could be coming to the Tarrant County government if county commissioners approve an amended $905 million budget proposal for fiscal year 2023.
The medical examiner’s office, county law enforcement and juvenile detention and services are all set to gain new employees, along with several other departments expected to gain less than 10 positions respectively. Of the departments, juvenile detention and services are set to gain the most employees, at 21.
Current employees are in line for a quarter million in retention payments, including upping base salaries by 4% and setting aside 3% merit increases. Salaries make up 48% of the total county budget.
“We had a 40% turnover of employees,” Helen Geise, director of Budget and Risk Management for Tarrant County, said. “So the court, one of their main initiatives and focuses was to make sure that there were increases to salaries, to be able to retain and hire employees.”
The majority of those retention costs will go toward law enforcement, because most county employees work in law enforcement, Geise said. A study commissioned by the county helped gauge what was going on with salaries in other counties, Geise said, and helped them land on the 4% salary bump.
As a result of the salary and position increases, the proposed budget has increased by $108 million compared to fiscal year 2022. Initially, county staff recommended a $916 million budget with the same tax rate as last year. In a meeting Aug. 30, commissioners directed staff to reduce the tax rate by half a cent, resulting in the current $905 million budget proposal.
“We go back and the auditors recalculate the revenue based on that lower tax rate,” Geise said.
That recalculation resulted in the $11 million decrease from the original budget proposal. As a result, the county will pause plans to renovate several existing buildings until the next budget cycle. Tarrant County generally funds capital projects, like renovations, using cash leftover from the previous year.
While county commissioners are intent on lowering the tax rate, residents are still likely to see a tax hike in 2023 because of property value increases, similar to the situation in 2022. On average, residential accounts increased by 14.6% in 2022, according to the Tarrant Appraisal District. The total amount of revenue set to be raised through the new, lower tax rate has not yet been determined.
The commissioners’ court has until Sept. 13 to finalize the budget, when it will vote on both the proposed tax rate and budget. Previous meetings discussing the budget proposal can be viewed here.
Emily Wolf is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com or via Twitter.
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