County Sets Tax Rate, Tries Again for County-Wide Voting, Tables Newspaper Requirements

Marion County Commissioners met Monday.

By Bob Palmer
Jimplecute News Editor

JEFFERSON – Marion County commissioners approved the 2020 budget and set a new tax rate Monday.

Commissioners voted for a tax rate of 57.8067-cents per $100 valuation – an increase of 2.4 cents. The budget has $4.1 million in the General Fund with another $1.3 million in the Road and Bridge Fund. The total of other various funds comes to $800,000.

The Capital Projects Fund for the restoration of the Courthouse comes to $5.6 million with $4.6 million coming from state funding.

Bruce Ockrassa, speaking during the public comment portion of the meeting, objected to commissioners voting themselves a raise. All county employees received a $300 raise in the budget.

“I believe people should recuse themselves from pay increases,” Ockrassa said. “It is indefensibly immoral to vote yourself a pay raise then raise everybody else’s taxes to pay for it.”

Ockrassa also lamented that Texans did not have the ability to remove elected county officials through a recall election, but County Judge Leward LaFleur admonished Ockrassa to stick to the agenda item he had requested to speak about – the budget.

The tax rate increases the amount of property taxes for the county by $236,999.

Commissioners also voted to reapply for state approval of county-wide voting. 

County Clerk Vickie Smith explained the Secretary of State’s office approves four small counties for county-wide voting status each cycle. The application approved by the court in July was the fifth request received by the state.

“I have my packet ready to go,” Smith said indicating she intended Marion County to be first in line this time.

County-wide voting allows citizens to use voting centers rather than being required to cast their ballot only at a specific poll. Smith also plans to consolidate some boxes.

The court also approved the usual consolidated boxes for the November Constitutional Amendment election.

Voting box 2 will move from Lake O’ the Pines Baptist Church to the Mims VFD.

Commissioners discussed the requirements for a newspaper to print public notices under Government Code 2051.044 and which newspaper should be used to print the county’s notices. 

Assistant County Attorney Bill Gleason read the law to commissioners, noting the law did not address online publication, but he expected that to come in the future.

Questions were asked about the number of times the Jimplecute published this year and if the Jimplecute held a second class mailing permit.

Commissioners tabled the matter.

Jimplecute Publisher Mica Wilhite has advised the court that the Jimplecute has not missed any publication dates.

“We have published the Jimplecute 52 weeks of the past 52 weeks,” Wilhite stated in an e-mail to court members. “Of those 52 weeks, 6 editions were e-Editions only.  46 were both e-Editions and print editions.”

The Jimplecute also holds a second class mailing permit as required by the law.

“The Jimplecute is the only publication that fulfills all the requirements of the law,” Wilhite said after the meeting.

On Sept. 11, the Jimplecute made a Texas Freedom of Information Act request seeking the number and amount of advertising bills paid by the county to the Marshall News Messenger.

On Sept. 13, the agenda for Monday’s meeting was posted including discussion of legal notice advertising. On Monday, the county also made a federal Freedom of Information Act request of the Jefferson Post Office seeking to determine the number of weeks the Jimplecute was distributed.

According to records submitted by County Auditor Shanna Solomon, Marion County has spent $4,792.08 with the Marshall News Messenger in 2019. This included four notices that were not also run in the Jimplecute.

The invoices showed the county paid Marshall News Messenger $777.98 for a quarter page ad. The cost of the same ad in the Jimplecute is $215.25.

In other action, commissioners approved record archival plans for the district and county clerks. They also entered into the minutes compensation orders for the county auditor and district court reporters.

A check for $372,198 was approved as contractor Joe R Jones’ first draw on the Courthouse restoration project.

Riviera Resources received permission to close CR 1651 near SH 155 while they lower a high pressure gas line that has become exposed.


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