Nueces County taxpayers hoping to see a decrease in their property taxes next fiscal year may be a little disappointed if county leaders stick with their plan to raise tax revenue to counteract rising expenditures.
County leaders are considering leaving the tax rate for the 2008-09 Fiscal Year at 35 cents per $100 in valuation, an amount that is still above the effective tax rate of 33 cents per $100 of valuation calculated from the N.C. Appraisal District's certified tax roll.
Because the proposed tax rate is still higher than the effective tax rate, it is still an increase for the county's taxpayers.
Rising appraisal values for homes in the county will also add to higher taxes being paid by some homeowners.
The move is designed to increase tax revenue for a county scrambling to counter rising fuel, energy and judicial costs that have skyrocketed across the board during the current fiscal period.
County Judge Loyd Neal said he and other county leaders are facing serious issues that must be addressed financially.
"We promise that we will continue to be good stewards of the money, but we have to be realistic and this year, we are facing some (major) problems," the county judge said.
Those issues include rising costs for electricity, which the county auditor's office said is projected to cost the county nearly $532,000 more than had been budgeted for the current fiscal year, and increased fuel prices. The county is also projected to finish the fiscal year nearly $173,000 over budget on fuel costs.
Some residents, though, are worried that the increase will be more than some taxpayers, such as those living in rural areas known as colonias, will be able to pay, said Lionel Lopez of the South Texas Colonias Initiative.
"Some of these people, they're barely making it," Lopez said. "They can't afford (tax increase) - they can barely afford to eat."
County leaders are still working out just how much more revenue the county will need to operate the county efficiently next fiscal year, but Neal said he is aware the effect will be felt harder on some than others.
"We understand the tax burden is heavy," the county judge said. "What we are faced with is not unusual for county governments across the state."
Neal added that the county is expected to nearly double how much it funds for court-appointed attorneys, an unfunded mandate from the state, which has cost the county about $2.1 million as of June, according to figures from the county auditor's office.
A pair of public hearings were also approved by county commissioners on the proposed tax increase for Aug. 18 and Aug. 22 at the Nueces County Courthouse. Both meetings are tentatively scheduled to begin at 9 a.m.