COVID-19 prompts budget neutrality for Wichita Co. departments

Local News

WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Wichita County Commissioners are still sifting through the logistics of next years budget as COVID-19 continues to take its financial toll.

Wichita County Judge Woody Gossom said next year’s department budgets will be the same as this years.

With fees and fines down in a big way, Gossom and commissioners don’t know what revenue will look like.

“The court’s stance has typically been for this budget cycle that we want to remain as neutral with any additional expense if at all possible because we just have uncertain revenue, we don’t know where we stand financially,” Wichita County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jeff Watts said.

That means pay raises are off the table for now.

Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 Rodney Burchett discussed a raise for one clerk who doesn’t make as much as their counterpart.

“Some of that can be missed from prior increases, or adjustments that we did the year before last or even last year to try to make more of those positions equal,” Watts said. “You would think those positions do deserve the same pay, so we’re going to look through that and see what can be done.”

“I told Judge Burchett I couldn’t support that raise, not ’cause he doesn’t have a good person, not that $254 will break the county for an annual increase, but if you crack the door, you’ve got to give everybody else a chance to get their foot through the door,” Gossom said.

They said the revenue issue lies in a decrease in fine and fee collections added with the uncertainty of where revenue will stream from outside of property taxes.

“We know there are some businesses that have gone under because of the COVID[-19] environment so as we look for next year, even though we received those values and all there are gonna be some places that aren’t in business,” Gossom said.

The goal is to not raise the tax rate and officials said budget neutrality is the best way.

The budget has to be adopted by Sept. 30.

Gossom said because it will be the same as last year, he hopes to have it complete in August 2020.

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