LLANO, Texas (KXAN) — Llano County commissioners discussed several ideas Monday to fill a $1.3 million shortfall in their 2018 budget.
Commissioners talked about the possibility of closing the Llano County Jail, as well as moving the Sheriff’s Office dispatch to a multi-agency center being proposed in Marble Falls.
Judge Mary Cunningham says the discussion about change stems from a predicament facing Llano County: stagnant tax revenue and increasing costs for the same level of services.
“We are not a growing county. We don’t have a lot of new revenue every year,” Cunningham said. “[But] our expenses increase. Our insurance went up 8 percent this year. As you know, the state legislature keeps adding more and more unfunded mandates. Those are going to be significantly higher next year.”
Cunningham and Precinct 1 Commissioner Peter Jones said Monday’s meeting was meant to discuss every possible option to make sure taxpayer dollars were being spent wisely.
“We were just looking and trying to look outside the box a bite and see if there are other options that would be equally safe, [with the] same service levels that we have now for less money,” Judge Cunningham said.
“I respect all of the input we got today from the Llano citizens and the law enforcement,” Jones said. “I think they have concerns about making sure their operation is effective, that it’s safe, that the deputies have the time to be on the streets to be able to do their job. All of that is in consideration, not just money. Money is not the most important thing, but we also as good stewards have to consider all of our costs so that we don’t just turn around and raise taxes without good consideration.”
Cunningham said county residents who spoke at the meeting liked the idea of raising taxes to cover existing services than cut proposed items.
“We’re just going to have to raise taxes, I guess. That’s what the people here today suggested they would rather we do so I think we always have to listen to our constituents.”
But with one week until their budget is due, Jones says there is not enough time to explore the ideas thoroughly.
“There’s a lot more in-depth assessment and analysis, a lot more input from stakeholders that would be affected, and so with the fact we are limited in time to be able to determine that in this budget cycle, we really need to put that on hold.”
Despite the shortfall, the county has no bond debt, unlike many local governments. Llano County paid off its last bonds in 2017.
Jones says, as of Monday’s meeting, commissioners are planning to use reserve funds to cover the budget shortfall and look at possible changes over the next year.
“We need to get the input we need to be able to determine, is it viable, is it not. On the surface, when you take the first cut at it and you just look at the savings of expenses, it may look viable but there’s a lot of other issues that come into play that we’ve heard today and I’ve heard previously that say, ‘No, we need to think about this a lot more carefully.'”
In-Depth: Llano County Jail Population
Last month, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards said Llano County had 44 inmates in the jail with zero beds available for new inmates. Records also show four additional inmates had been transferred to another county.
Moving inmates from one county to another is not a new proposal in central Texas.
In June, KXAN reported Hays County will have to continue moving inmates to other jails, including Burnet County’s, until 2019, when a 300-bed expansion to their current facility is completed.
If Llano County leaders decided to close the county jail, it would join 20 other counties without a facility. Each of the 20 other counties has a population of 7,700 or less. As of 2015, the U.S. Census Bureau said Llano County had 19,796 residents, which would make it the largest county without a jail.