Nueces County Commissioners approved the 2011-12 budget and tax rate last week, but officials warned residents and employees that next year’s budget preparations might be much more difficult.

County Judge Loyd Neal addressed a packed room during the commissioners’ meeting on Aug. 31. He told them that although the county managed to avoid sweeping program and staff cuts in the new budget, that might not be the case for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

The county implemented a number of cost-cutting measures, totaling more than $1.6 million. Those include a reductions in funding for temporary employees, capital improvement projects and a 30-day hiring freeze on all vacant positions, except for jail, juvenile detention and juvenile boot camp positions.

The 30-day hiring freeze is expected to save the county $400,000 and could be extended up to 60 days, Neal said.

He urged county administrators and employees to be proactive in looking for ways to save money and eliminate costs, specifically when it comes to staffing levels, in order to avoid “draconian” cuts to programs and employee levels next fiscal year.

“I’m asking you to help us, as a court, manage this budget,” Neal said. “If we don’t have to spend the money, people, I’m simply asking you, don’t spend the money.”

The 2011-12 budget was approved in a 5-0 vote.

Commissioners also unanimously voted to adopt the tax rates for the county and Hospital District. The county’s 2011-12 rate of .355259 cents per $100 is unchanged from last year, although it is technically a tax increase since it is higher than the effective tax rate.

The Hospital District’s tax rate of .162428 cents per $100 valuation is also unchanged from last year, but it, too, is higher than the effective tax rate, which is the rate the county would have had to adopt in order to generate the same amount of property tax revenue as the previous year. Both the county and Hospital District rates adopted last week will generate more revenue for the county than in 2010-11.

In other county business:

• Commissioners voted 4-1 to approve a resolution expressing the county’s desire to demolish the old courthouse.

County leaders met last month with representatives from the Texas Historical Commission and presented them with a study conducted by LNV Engineering that showed the decrepit state of the facility, including massive foundational issues and severe corrosion in the building’s main support frame.

THC officials expressed their intent to visit the site sometime this month, adding that they do not believe the entire building needs to be torn down. The City of Corpus Christi has also passed a resolution supporting the county’s stance.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Oscar Ortiz voted against the resolution because he felt the move was premature.

He also said he was concerned about the potential costs the county could incur from demolishing the old courthouse.