NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Before heated opposition, the Nacogdoches County Commissioners adopted a budget. It requires a tax hike and extensive cuts to law enforcement. Although opponents of the new budget didn't win the battle, they certainly gave the court a lot to think about.
Opponents of the proposed budget had both hope and doubt that they would be able to change the commissioners' minds about the law enforcement budget cuts.
"A total of 16 full-time positions being eliminated from the sheriff's office budget and nine part-time positions is a pretty good whack for a newly elected sheriff to face," said Constable Jason Bridges, Nacogdoches County's sheriff-elect, told commissioners.
He said that it amounts to up to a 23 percent cut. However, the budget cuts represent the same kind of operating expenses Sheriff Thomas Kerss, the lame duck county official, faced when he was elected in 2009. Kerss said although the situation that Bridges will inherit is not ideal, it's not impossible.
"I'm not telling you it's ideal," Kerss said. "It's tough. It's going to be hard to operate, but it's not impossible to do."
Private citizens also spoke out at the hearing. Mike Perry, a local business owner, questioned the expenses related to Nacogdoches' new civic center.
"Y'all got 60,000 in there for a general manager and 31,000 for an administrative assistant, and another 30,000 for a grounds keeper," Perry said. "And I don't know that's money well spent if it's taken away from law enforcement."
Jason Monday blamed the court for not working together and urged the commissioners to put their personal issues aside.
"Let's put our personal issues to bed and vote down this budget and write one that works better for the citizens of the county," Jason Monday, a local business owner said.
Then there's the 2-cent tax hike, the first one in years.
"The biggest decision for me in this whole budget was having to raise taxes," said Nacogdoches County judge Joe English.
Higher taxes led to the only no vote on the court.
"I made a promise when I ran that I would not vote for a property tax," Elton Milstead, the Precinct 4 county commissioner, said. "I know that's kinda unusual that people do what they say, but I can't vote for it."
A commissioner who once disagreed with the cuts did what he thought had to be done.
"I don't agree with all the cuts we had to do, but we had to do 'em to balance the budget," Jerry Don Williamson, the Precinct 1 county commissioner, said.
Then it happened.
"All in favor raise your hands. All oppose same sign. Motion carries."