San Augustine Co. taxpayers upset about new tax rate

SAN AUGUSTINE COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - More than 8,000 residents may soon see a 33 percent tax increase during the next fiscal year. During a county commissioner's court meeting Tuesday, residents suggested money be saved by getting rid of county employees and certain benefits.

San Augustine county taxpayers and residents say they are tired of hearing the county tell them there is nothing else to be cut from the budget.

"The county says the budget has been cut to the bone," a county taxpayer said.

Residents in court on Tuesday are concerned about the proposed tax increase of an estimated 33 percent.

County judge Samye Johnson told local taxpayers that the initial tax proposal was roughly three percent higher than the current proposal.

"We went back to them and said this is too high," said county judge Samye Johnson. "They cut further; they cut almost everything that they could cut. Some of them could cut payroll and some of them could alleviate jobs."

These cuts may help but the community is still unhappy.

"Some action has been taken toward trying to cut the budget down but 33 percent increase is still a big increase; that's a concern for the community," Cindy Bebout said.

Taxpayers said they realize the county does have a low tax rate compared to other East Texas counties but by the end of the month that could all change.

"We have a very low tax rate but an increase of double digits, 10 percent or 12 percent, most people could probably handle that, but a 33 percent increase just sounds irresponsible and like they are dumping it on the homeowners," Danny Bebout said.

As a local business owner Jodi Johnson feels the county government should be run like a business.

"This is a serious thing," Jodi Johnson said. "I want people to take this seriously and if we have to have a tax increase let's make it the smartest use of the money."

Johnson feels the tactics her mother, Judge Johnson, has been taking work but she wishes the community would get more involved with public hearings and meetings.

"I think the public always needs to get involved," Jodi Johnson said. "Don't just come with a problem; come with a solution. I think government across the board is run wrong. I think it needs to be run like a business."

But some homeowners have become delinquent tax payers over the years, causing others to pick up the slack.

The next meeting to adopt proposed tax rates and the budget will be September 17 at 9 a.m. Any taxpayer or citizen can attend and participate in the public hearing. The county's tax rate and budget are due at the end of the month. The 2014 fiscal starts October 1.

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