At this time of year, we see the arrival of fall with cooler temperatures, getting together to enjoy football Friday night lights, and planning for the upcoming holidays. October is also the start of a new fiscal year for Denton County.
Denton County continues to face the challenges that fast growth brings. Every day, around 82 people move into our county. With our population of 950,700-plus residents. We continue to look ahead to ensure county services are available for all.
This year, we dropped the approved tax rate of $0.217543 by over a penny and a half below last year’s rate, making it the lowest it has been since 1986 – 36 years ago.
We have been focused on limiting the county budget while also taking care of our employees. With the changing market conditions affecting both our employees and our taxpayers, we knew it was important to make adjustments to account for it.
Our focus on employees was a key part of the $371,084,382 budget, which went into effect on October 1. We approved sliding the pay scale for employees by 5 percent to ensure starting salaries do not fall behind the market more than at present.
We also did it to increase retention. Current vacancies among our 1,889 positions total almost 17 percent. Our detention officer salaries were upgraded to two pay grades as this area is experiencing a major impact in job vacancies.
We also earmarked an estimated $7 million for cybersecurity measures and technology updates as well as $3.5 million for public safety, including expansion of the human trafficking unit.
We increased the road project planning in the Permanent Improvement Fund by $1 million to help pay for roads using a “pay as you go” system rather than issuing debt for county roads. For road maintenance and improvements, $1.29 million was set aside for surface treatment, flex base, lumber, fencing, culvert repairs, and more. These funds also took into account the additional costs due to inflation.
We also added new positions to cover unfunded mandates and handle the deferred impact of new courts added in Fiscal Year 2021-22 in our judicial and legal system.
And speaking of inflation, we estimated an additional $295,175 in costs due to higher maintenance and operation costs as well as an increase of $486,305 in the funding formula used to configure how much the county pays for the Denton Central Appraisal District (DCAD) operations. Each entity in Denton County pays a portion of the DCAD budget.
For you, our taxpayers, we looked at overall expenses so that we could lower the tax rate. Our new tax rate of $0.217543 falls well below all but one of the top 15 most populated counties in Texas. While we have the second lowest county tax rate, we have the lowest countywide tax rate. Countywide rates include additional tax rates for such districts as hospitals, community colleges, and flood control – none of which exist in our county.
Our tax rate accounts for 10 percent of the annual property tax that our property owners pay. The remainder is for school districts and cities.
We take being fiscally responsible very seriously in Denton County. We understand it is your tax dollars and that we are tasked with using them wisely and to the best benefit of you – the taxpayers.