Friday, June 21, 2024

Denton County proposes lower tax rate, higher public safety funding

Denton County announced Tuesday that it is proposing a reduced tax rate and increased funding for public safety in its 2023-24 Fiscal Year budget.

Denton County’s Fiscal Year 2023-2024 recommended budget earmarks an estimated increase of $3.54 million for public safety, including a 14% slide of the pay scale for law enforcement. At the same time, the proposed tax rate is being reduced by nearly three pennies from the FY 2023 adopted rate, making the FY 2024 proposed tax rate of $0.189485.

“With rising costs and inflation hitting Denton County residents hard this year, lowering the tax rate was of topmost importance again with this year’s budget,” said Denton County Judge Andy Eads. “We also support our law enforcement for the safety of our residents and those visiting our county.

“During this past year, as our population pushed past the 1 million mark, we have continued to increase our ability to pay-as-you-go for roads as well as road maintenance in an ongoing effort to decrease our debt rate while meeting state mandates such as higher ratios of employees needed per client in our juvenile justice system.”

The focus on these areas are a key part of the recommended $396 million budget under consideration by the Denton County Commissioners Court, according to a county news release. Other key factors in the proposed FY 2023-2024 budget include:

  • Increasing funding for road related expenditures by $1.7 million, increasing the amount to pay for roads using a “pay as you go” system rather than issuing debt for county roads
  • Adding new positions, covering unfunded mandates and handling increases related to the judicial and legal system at a cost of about $2.49 million
  • Sliding the pay scale for employees by 5 percent to ensure starting salaries do not fall behind the market more than at present and to increase retention. Denton County ranks third lowest among the top 15 Texas counties with 1.95 employees per capita. Denton County continues to decline in the number of employees per 1,000 residents, falling from a high of 2.29 employees per 1,000 residents in 2014 to the current rate of 1.95 employees per the same number of residents. In 2022-2023, the rate was 2.02 employees per capita.

“We continue to be innovative in increasing services to the public while maintaining a conservative view on our tax rate,” Eads said. “We also strive to be competitive in salaries to retain current employees and attract the best and brightest new talent.”

The proposed tax rate of $0.189485 is a no-new-revenue rate, which is the rate that provides Denton County approximately the same amount of revenue as the previous year from properties taxed in both years. The proposed tax rate falls well below all but one of the top 15 most populated Texas counties in terms of the county tax rate, according to the county news release. Denton County, with an estimated population of just over 1 million, ranks the second lowest in the county tax rate category and is the lowest in the county-wide rate. County-wide rates include additional tax rates for such districts as hospitals, community college, and flood control and port authority – none of which exist in Denton County.

“We always keep taxpayers top of mind when creating each year’s budget,” said Precinct 3 Commissioner Bobbie Mitchell. “We know our residents are dealing with inflation and other higher costs of living. It is vital to us that we keep the county’s tax rate at the lowest possible while still providing quality services.”

For example, using the proposed tax rate of $0.189485 and the average 2023 Denton County home value of $448,754, Denton County’s proposed rate accounts for 9% of the overall annual property taxes owed by the resident living in the City of Denton. Denton ISD school district tax rates account for 64% while the City of Denton tax rate accounts for 27% of the annual amount paid by property owners. Even though the average taxable home value is increasing, the average Denton County homeowner would see a decrease of $22.35, due to the significant decrease in the tax rate.

“We believe our lower tax rate coupled with the initiatives taken by the Texas Legislature in this last session together will help lower expenses for our Denton County taxpayers,” Precinct 4 Commissioner Dianne Edmondson said.

Mark Smith
Mark Smith
Mark Smith is the Digital Editor of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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