WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — At the Wichita county commissioners meeting, commissioners discussed budget concerns caused by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since court cases have been backlogged and court fees aren’t being paid, Wichita County is losing revenue. That puts this year’s budget and future budgets in danger.
“Well people aren’t paying them,” Wichita County Judge Woody Gossom said. “They’re unemployed, they don’t have the money, they aren’t coming to the courthouse. It’s just everything and that kind of revenue income has slowed down. Now, will it catch up? But there’s also been less court action so less papers being served by the constables and the civil division of the sheriff’s office which then means less revenue also.”
Less revenue means less money to spread around the county and budget cuts.
“People came in and asked me for a lot of good things: increases in personnel, increases in salary, new equipment. That’s gonna be really looked over carefully. Because my goal and I think the court’s goal is we will live with the effective tax rate,” Gossom said.
While budget cuts will impact the city of Wichita Falls, other areas in the county are in greater danger.
“I’ll be honest with you, I’m really concerned about our municipalities who thrive on sales tax,” Wichita County commissioner Precinct 2 Lee Harvey said. “It’s gonna be a huge deficit for our municipalities. I don’t know how hard it’s gonna hit but it’s gonna hit hard.
When court rooms and cases reopen, it could help the county’s budget. But it could also be…
“Like taking a drink out of a firehose,” Harvey said. “So many court cases that are backed up and backlogged. I mean it’s gonna be really busy in our court systems.”
But county commissioners are keeping residents in mind by planning ahead.
“It’s scary right now,” Gossom said. “To try to guess, I don’t have that good a crystal ball so I’m gonna plan a very conservative budget.”
Judge Gossom also says the county is always applying for various grants. And they will also seek COVID-19 reimbursement.