(Orange, Texas)

September 25, 2013

County adopts deficit budget

Dawn Burleigh
The Orange Leader

ORANGE — Orange County almost had to start over with the budget.

The vote to approve the budget and the tax rate were 3-2. Commissioner Pct. 3 John Banken and Commissioner Pct. 4 Jody Crump voted no during the Monday meeting.

County Judge Carl Thibodeaux polled the vote for the adoption of ad valorem tax rates as required by the State starting with Crump.

“I sure hope we have another yes,” Thibodeaux said after hearing the two no votes. “Or we have to start all over from the beginning.”

The budget showing a $3.165 million deficit is the first time the county adopted a deficit budget according to Thibodeaux.

“It is the first time since I have been here that it has happened,” Thibodeaux said.

County Auditor Mary Johnson said the court adopted a deficit budget last year according to a previously published Orange Leader article.

The county made an eleventh hour attempt to trimming the budget by sending an e-mail on Friday to the department heads to make a 10% cut to anywhere in the departments budget. The department heads had four and a half hours to notify the auditor of where the cuts need to be taken. If the department head did not respond by the deadline it was taken from the largest line item in that departments budget.

For the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, the line item slashed by 10% is fuel and gas.

“There is not going to be enough money if it is left that way,” Orange County Sheriff Keith Merritt said during the public hearing prior to the 2 p.m. meeting Monday.

Merritt said he was not able to respond by the deadline due to being out on a case during that time.

Johnson said a line item transfer could be done at a later date as needed.

“There is not another line item to take it from,” Merritt said. “The budget is already short.”

Banken said that all Capital Expenditures must come before the court for approval.

The court will also work on a plan to reduce expenditures between Oct. 1 and Jan. 1, 2014.

Jerry Wilson, a citizen of Orange County, suggested the county eliminate constables.

“For 16 years I have harped to cut constables,” Wilson said.

Another citizen suggested the court cut it’s own budget to save money.