County to take a close look at budget

Howard County commissioners will meet during a special-called meeting Monday morning to begin work in-earnest on the government entity's 2013-2014 fiscal plan.The Howard County Appraisal District released certified values this week, with Howard County seeing a slight downturn in its certified taxable values. The county saw values dip to $3,201,897,608 this year, down $248,038,790 compared to values estimated at $3,449,936,398 in 2012.According to Precinct 2 County Commissioner Donnie Baker, the drop in values will be felt in the upcoming budget, but isn't expected to over-burden the plan.“Anytime you have a decrease in your taxable values, you're going to feel it in your budget,” Baker said. “That's just a fact of life. However, I feel like the county budget will be able to take this in stride. I feel like we're in good enough shape right now that we'll be alright.”While the county has been meeting with its department heads and discussing expected costs going into the new budgetary year, County Judge Mark Barr said the release of the certified values will allow the commissioners court to begin plotting out the fiscal course of the county.“Until you have those certified values, you're really just having to go off the numbers from the previous years,” Barr said. “Now that we have them, we can really begin working on the finer points of the budget.”According to Baker, one of the biggest challenges facing the county going into the 2013-2014 budget will be employee salaries.Monday's meeting is to get under way at 10 a.m. in the old commissioners courtroom, located on the second floor of the county courthouse.