After a series of contentious budget workshops which often turned into heated debates, the San Jacinto County Commissioners Court approved a budget for the fiscal 2018 year.
The final budget adopted by the court ended up being raised to $10,365,000, up from last year’s budget of $9,831,526. Pay raises for county employees and increased funding for law enforcement accounted for most of the increase in the budget.
Constables and deputies received a $4,000 raise. The rationale behind the raise was to keep law enforcement officers in San Jacinto County and be able to compete with other counties, such as neighboring Montgomery County, where salaries are higher.
Most other county employees will see a $1,500 raise next year.
The court dropped the tax rate from $0.648 per $100 valuation to $0.64. However, even with the lower rate, many residents will actually see a tax increase next year, due to rising property values in the county.
The leadership of the San Jacinto County Republican Party worked to inform the public on how money was being spent and encouraged them to show up and be involved in the process. County Chair Dwayne Wright and State Republican Executive Committeeman Terry Holcomb were present and engaged at various points during the week. The party also sent out email blasts ahead of the workshops, encouraging Republicans to show up.
The budget process comes amid deteriorating relationships between County Judge John Lovett and the four commissioners, who are waging a legal battle over office space. Lovett ruffled feathers when he unilaterally moved his office, displacing the probation department in the process. The commissioners then had a wall built across the judge’s new office while he was out of town. Lovett is suing the commissioners, and the tension between them was clearly evident throughout the budget workshops.