Preliminary budget set

Dear Editor,
I have prepared a preliminary budget for filing for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, which will be filed Monday morning.  We have cut the budget for the past several years, out of necessity.  But, also out of necessity, we have a number of needs in the county which must be met.  We have put off any new vehicles for the sheriff’s office for the past two years, and cannot afford to put this off again, which would lead to less reliable vehicles, and increasing repair bills.  We have equipment needs at road and bridge which will pay for themselves in the long term, but we need to make the investment now to keep up with needed maintenance of our county roads.  We have an older courthouse which is in need of certain repairs.  We also face increasing challenges from increased state mandates and decreased state funding, all of which put more pressure on local property taxes.
Nonetheless, the proposed budget would keep the tax rate below the “effective” tax rate, meaning it will raise less tax revenue than last year, excluding taxes on new property.  Appraisals in the county continue to decline, primarily in the industria/mineral sector, which places more of the burden on homeowners and other property owners.  Yet I believe most citizens do not want to see a loss of basic services.
We are fiscally healthy and have healthy fund balances, due to conservative and frugal money management.  This is also due to good money management by all department heads, and I applaud them for their efforts in this regards.  The future for Limestone County looks bright as the energy sector rebounds.  I look forward to the process ahead as we debate and finalize the budget for the next year.
Daniel L. Burkeen
Limestone County Judge