Fall is a busy time for everyone in Hidalgo County. Families are growing accustomed to the routine of the new school year. The university is booming with life, activity, and the excitement of a new semester.
For Hidalgo County leaders, the beginning of the fall season brings a critical county responsibility: adopting an annual budget.
A government’s budget is a strong indicator of leaders’ vision and plans for the future; it shows priorities for the community. For Hidalgo County, the top priority is to continue to maintain the health and safety of our residents in a cost-efficient manner that does not raise taxes.
As Hidalgo County’s population continues to grow at a faster rate than most areas in the country, we are faced with the challenge of providing the same high level of service for our expanding community. The commissioners and I continue to meet these growing needs, while staying adamant about not raising taxes.
As Hidalgo County’s population continues to grow a faster rate than most areas in the country, we are faced with the challenge of providing the same high level of service for our expanding community. The commissioners and I continue to meet these growing needs, while staying adamant about not raising taxes.
I am very proud of the fact that Hidalgo County has not raised taxes for the 15th consecutive year; the 59 cent tax rate will remain the same.
Furthermore, we have been able to develop a healthy “rainy day” fund, or reserve fund balance, despite the unpredictable natural disasters we have faced in recent years.
When I took office in 2003, Hidalgo County’s reserve fund balance was dangerously low at $702,648, even though the county had increased taxes in 2000, 2001, and 2002. Had a natural disaster impacted Hidalgo County then, the results would have been catastrophic.
Today, after 15 years of no tax increases, our “rainy day’ fund balance is over $26 million, or 14.7 percent of the operating budget. With a fund balance of this size, we are in compliance with budget policy that requires us to keep between 10 to 15 percent of our operating budget in our fund balance. The healthy fund balance also helps us secure better bond ratings and interest rates that will be needed for future county projects.
I am proud to say the county is in the best financial position since I first took office in 2003. During my tenure, the county has faced hurricanes, record-setting rainfall, and even a major national economic recession.
However, our priority has not waivered. We will continue to provide services that will better the well-being of our citizens, without incurring additional taxes.
Editor’s Note: The above guest column first appeared in Hidalgo County’s newsletter, County Connection, published October 16, 2016.