In counties with a population less than 225,000 the County Judge serves as the budget officer assisted by the County Auditor. The County Judge may also solicit from each department whatever data may be required to prepare an accurate budget. The budget is presented on a line-item basis and adopted on the fund level. The budget must be itemized to make possible a comparison of the 11 proposed expenditures with the prior year expenditures. The budget must show, as accurately as possible, the purpose of each expenditure and the amount of money appropriated.
Upon completion of the proposed budget, the County Judge files a copy with the County Clerk and posts it on the county website. The Commissioners Court holds a public hearing on the proposed budget. Any taxpayer of the County may attend and participate in the hearing(s). The hearing(s) are held in accordance with the Texas Open Meetings Act and the calendar for the hearing(s) is set by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts and the Texas Local Government Code.
At the conclusion of the public hearing, the Commissioners Court takes action on the proposed budget. The Commissioners Court may make any changes in the proposed budget that it considers warranted by law and required in the best interest of the taxpayers. The Commissioners Court may levy taxes only in accordance with the budget. After final approval of the budget, the County Judge shall file a copy with the County Clerk and post it on the county website and the County may spend County funds only in strict compliance with the budget, except in an emergency.
The Commissioners’ Court may authorize an emergency expenditure as an amendment to the original budget only in a case of grave public necessity to meet an unusual and unforeseen condition that could not have been included in the original budget through the use of reasonably diligent thought and attention. If the Court amends the original budget to meet an emergency, the Court files a copy of its order amending the budget with the County Clerk. The clerk attaches the copy to the original budget.
The Commissioners’ Court, by order, may amend the budget to transfer an amount budgeted for one item to another budgeted item within the same fund without authorizing an emergency expenditure.
State law requires counties to adopt a budget before adopting a tax rate. The Commissioners’ Court may levy taxes only in accordance with the budget. Chapter 26 of the Property Tax Code requires taxing units to comply with truth-in-taxation laws in setting tax rates. This law has two purposes:
To make the taxpayers more knowledgeable about tax rate proposals.
To allow taxpayers to roll back or limit a tax increase in certain cases.