Million dollar deficit putting Angelina County Commissioners in a budget bind

Robert W. Walker, life-long Angelina County resident
Robert W. Walker, life-long Angelina County resident
Pct. 1 Commissioner Rick Harrison
Pct. 1 Commissioner Rick Harrison

By Morgan Thomas - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – It's been a long day for Angelina County Commissioners. Led by County Judge Wes Suiter, they've realized the outlook for next year's budget isn't good.

"Right now, we're about a million dollars out... still a million dollars deficit,"said Suiter.

The judge is blaming two factors: One, an $800,000 increase in health care benefits for county employees, and two...

"A $300,000 drop in sales tax the first 6 months," said Suiter.

Commissioners spent the entire afternoon Tuesday inside the Angelina County Courthouse Annex, going through the 2011 budget line by line. Nothing was spared from discussion; yet, there were few answers.

Except the one thing most commissioners say they dread... raising taxes. Life-long county resident, Robert Walker, hopes that doesn't happen.

"What's he want to do? Put all the taxes on people like me? Let us have the worry and them be satisfied with more money?" said Walker.

Walker is retired and struggling with a fixed income. He wants commissioners to instead think about where more cuts can be made.

"Evaluate the crew they have and see if they couldn't make cuts on it and so the same amount of work," said Walker.

Precinct One Commissioner Rick Harrison says raising taxes won't happen, unless it's the only way to balance the budget.

"Anytime that a commissioner votes to raise taxes, he's voting to raise his own taxes. That weighs heavily on my mind," said Harrison.

Harrison is also dealing with a growing issue in his West Angelina County precinct: the population.

"Once you have big growth in population, you have a demand for better roads...," said Harrison.

The costs for fuel and materials used in road construction has doubled in the past few years. Working with less and doing more is putting this county in a million dollar bind.

County Judge Wes Suiter says they've already made a lot of cuts, including eliminating two positions that were currently vacant.

However, there's till a big million dollar hole to overcome.

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