By Becky Brewster
Culberson County Commissioners met in special session on August 23, 2021. Joe Morales, County Tax Assessor-Collector presented the calculations for the No-New-Revenue tax rate at $.162707. The Court agreed to accept this rate without going through the process to increase the rate by the 3.5% allowed by the tax code. With this rate, $.139293 will go to the general fund, $.011637 to Farm-to-Market Roads and Flood Control and $.011777 to the Special Road and Bridge fund.
The Commissioners reviewed the County’s health insurance with the Texas Association of Counties for 2021-2022 presented at the last meeting which has an 8.7% increase to keep the existing “grandfathered” plan. Judge Carlos Urias recommended keeping the existing coverage, noting that “what it did for me was incredible.” The court voted unanimously to keep the same coverage.
The Court held another budget workshop. County Auditor Mark Cabezuela presented a balanced budget document to the commissioners for consideration. He noted that with the projected tax rate, he was able to incorporate the proposed salary increases and departmental budget requests. He noted that this budget does not include additional personnel as requested by the Sheriff’s Department. Cabezuela noted that this budget is balanced so any addition to the budget at this time would have to come from carryover funds or from savings. The budget hearing and the hearing on the tax rate is scheduled for September 15, 2021 at 5:15 p.m.
County Clerk Linda McDonald briefed the Court on the change in the Precinct 3 polling place noting that the CCAISD administration building that has been used in the past has developed severe leaks, and will be replaced in the near future. In the meantime, the polling place will be located elsewhere on the CCAISD property.
Sheriff Oscar Carrillo reported that two employees in the jail had tested positive for COVID-19. He suggested that the County consider purchasing rapid antigen self-tests. The rapid antigen tests are on-the-spot screening tests that detect proteins in the virus and deliver results within minutes. Carrillo noted that the jail was at capacity, and the recent resurgence of the virus could also affect the jail population. The quick-result testing could alleviate many concerns and could be used throughout the County departments as needed.
Carrillo also reported that his jails are full but the inmates are not being prosecuted due to lack of indictment by the District Attorney’s office. This is due in part to the lack of drug-testing availability with the labs backed up for months. Carrillo stated that the inmates must be indicted or they walk after 90 days. The DA suggested the County find an alternate lab with a faster turn-around to expedite the process. Carrillo noted that most inmates are there due to DPS arrests but the County has to bear the cost.
Larry Simpson, representing the Clark Hotel Museum, requested funding for exhibits noting that the museum tells the story of our county. The Clark Hotel Museum was the site of the first Culberson County Courthouse. The Museum is looking to create an exhibit in the old courtroom area. Simpson reported that the City provides the personnel plus $25,000/year for the museum operations.
Simpson also requested upgrades to the restrooms at the Culberson County Airport and the repair or replacement of the airport’s non-directional beacon (NDB) which is critical to the approach and departure of the planes. Simpson has not been able to find someone to repair the NDB as of yet, and noted that the FAA has mandated that the NDB be fixed or removed.
In other County business, the Court also:
Heard reports on various county projects.