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Precinct 4 Update: FM 407 widening project timeline set

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I am pleased to report that on July 8, 2011, TxDOT awarded a contract to Lane Construction for $12,873,212.87 for the construction of FM 407 from Chinn Chapel Road to FM 1830, minus the Lantana Curve which is already complete.

Like many of the road projects here in Denton County, the winning bid came in below the engineer’s estimate. This bid was 15.4% below the estimate.

The project has a 180 day delayed start for utility relocation so the construction will begin right after the first of the year and is estimated to take 24 months.

Redistricting

As a result of the 2010 census figures being released in January, Denton County as well as the Texas Legislature conducted redistricting processes. This spring the Denton County Commissioners Court appointed a 15-person Citizen Committee to provide input and recommendations to the redistricting process here in Denton County. After numerous meetings of the Citizen Committee this summer, the Commissioners Court adopted revised districts for voter precincts, Justice of the Peace, Constable, and County Commissioners. Many revisions we made to the voter precincts were made with ease of the voter in mind. By splitting and combining certain precincts, and making other logical boundary changes, voters will more easily be able to find their polling place. The elections office will also be renumbering voting precincts as well, likely moving from a three digit code to a four digit code. The next step in the process is for the Department of Justice to approve the new maps. Once we receive approval, these maps will go into effect January 1, 2012, and the new maps will be online at www.dentoncounty.com.

County Budget Update

Denton County is proposing a 0% tax increase budget with the adoption of the effective tax rate $0.277357 per $100 of taxable value, which is the rate that will generate the same tax dollars received on properties taxed in both years. The budget and tax rate are proposed for adoption on September 6, 2011, at the conclusion of the Public Hearing scheduled for 10:00am. The budget is proposed at just over $202 million. This was another tough budget process and most departments experienced reductions in various line items due to a decline in projected revenues including state legislative budget cuts that were passed down to the county. This has been a difficult budget process and there is nothing on the horizon that makes us believe that we will see an improvement in the economy by the time we start our next budget process.

There are numerous items that caused impacts to the budget this year. Many of these items we have little control over such as insurance costs, gasoline expenses and court ordered expenses. Below is an abbreviated list of some of the items that are impacts or reductions to this year’s budget:

Increases:
– The Capital Replacement Fund increased by $2.7 million (by taking funds from the fund balance and allocating it for possible projects that may need additional funding).
– New property added to the tax roll for the first this year will provide for an $2,996,192.
– Health insurance increase = $2.8 million
– Election expenses increased by $180,000
– Court ordered expenses increased by $260,000
– Gasoline expense increased by $142,000
– New District Court (full year operating expense) increased by $194,000

Reductions:
– Reduced library funding by 20% or $48,000
– Less capital equipment by $120,000
– Less supplies total $135,000
– Less Professional Services and Insurance by $314,000
– Less Juvenile Probation Grants by $184,000
– Less Debt Service Payments by $321,000
– Less contingency by $921,000

Drought Update

As we all know, Denton County is experiencing a record breaking drought as is the rest of the state. This has a significant impact to the county’s agricultural industry. The estimated agricultural losses across the state have reached a record of $5.2 billion and climbing.

Cattle numbers are already at an all time low and as some producers have been forced to sell their breeding stock, this means there will be less calves next year and not enough breeding age replacement females to fill that demand for rebuilding. Pastures are being over-grazed, hay in limited supply is hard to find at any cost, and supplemental feed such as protein cubes, cotton seed, and wheat are also costly. Both forage-based and supplemental feeds need rain to grow the basic commodities needed for processing. Stock ponds are dry, limiting the availability of suitable livestock drinking water.

Some grazing and hay pastures will take years to recover. Rebuilding cattle numbers will take even longer. A cow can only have one calf per year and young females cannot breed until puberty at 12-14 months of age. Add another 9 months of gestation on top of that, and it is clear to see that it takes years to rebuild a herd once the base of older breeding cows is liquidated.

Not only is the livestock industry affected, but the entire states’ agricultural production. Losses are estimated at $2.06 billion for livestock, $750 million for hay, $327 million lost in corn production, $243 million in wheat losses, and $63 million in sorghum losses. More than half of the 4.53 million acres of High Plains cotton have been abandoned and will not be harvested this year.

If you have any questions or comments contact me at 940-349-2801 office, 214-450-3184 cell or email me at andy.eads@dentoncounty.com.

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