To the Editor,

Now that the Ellis County 2016/2017 budget process is moving forward, I want to give my opinion regarding the Sheriff’s salary budget (sheriff salaries only—not jail salaries). The Sheriff’s salary budget was for an additional $860,765 or 15.9% above prior year (2015/2016) salaries. It appeared to me it offered no new programs and/or services and had some positions getting up to a 30% increase, others up to a 20% increase and others getting almost no (0%) salary increase. Consequently, in my opinion, it appeared to be a fairytale and so irresponsible it should have never been dumped in the lap of the commissioners' court.

I believe this irresponsible budgeting from the Sheriff is nothing new. In the budget year 2014/2015, the Sheriff presented a budget (Ellis County FY 204-2015 Budget Request Form) for over $2,000,000 above the prior year, 1 million on the jail side ($10,075,424 request-$9,038,693 original budget) and 1 million on the sheriff side ($9,411,533 request-$8,061,250 original budget). I believe if approved, this would have put Ellis County dangerously close to a roll back tax level something no one would have wanted for our county (WDL/Aug 2014 tax rate 0.413599- rollback tax rate 0.439738). As you can see the difference between the rollback rate and the actual tax rate is about 2.6 cents. A penny (1 cent) on the tax rate that year equaled about $1,000,000 which means the $2,000,000 plus budget request would have put the county very near a rollback position. Commissioners court cut this high budget request back in order to protect in my opinion the financial integrity of our county.

In my opinion, no thanks to budgeting from the Sheriff, Ellis County is in a solid financial position thanks to our county judge and a majority of current as well as past commissioners. In January 2016, Fitch (a major rating agency) issued a solid AA bond rating for Ellis County and a financial outlook of Stable. This goes with the lowest of low tax rate (.413599) when compared to comparable near by counties. Judge Bush and commissioners, keep it that way! Because of Ellis County’s strong financial standing, it refunded about $39,000,000 of debt, and with good credit, standing was able to get lower interest rates thus saving taxpayers about $7,000,000 (Fall 2016).

IF you hear or read that the judge and commissioners cut the Sheriff’s funding, know that not one red cent will be cut from the prior year spending, but what will be cut is the Sheriff’s fairytale budget request.

James Parks, Waxahachie, TX