The Texas County Justice Center under construction in Houston.

Members of the Texas County Commission approved an operating budget for 2008 that calls for completion of a new $10 million justice center and jail, as well as major renovations to the existing county courthouse.

The justice center is slated to open in late summer or early fall at Grand Avenue and Spruce Street. Remodeling of the county courthouse on Grand Avenue also is planned. Both efforts are made possible through passage in 2005 of two half-cent sales taxes. One is earmarked for payment of bonds used to finance the justice center and the second one for county maintenance and operations. Already on the books is a half-cent sales tax approved in the early 1980s. The three are estimated to generate almost $3 million this year. County property owners pay no taxes earmarked exclusively for county operations. Other fund sources come from fees generated by various county offices and reimbursements from state and federal sources.

The spending document, crafted over several weeks of work by the county commission and County Clerk Don Troutman, includes 40 different funds to handle the various facets of county government – ranging from law enforcement to the collection of taxes.

Because of the addition of justice center and new jail later this year, the county’s general revenue fund calls for expenditures of about $3.1 million. That’s up about $1 million from 2007’s spending document.

It takes about $260,721 monthly to pay the bills in county government, said Don Troutman, the county’s budget officer. The county started the year with about $243,668 in its general fund.

“This may seem like a large bank balance,” said Troutman, noting it is about $17,000 less than one month’s planned expenditures in 2008.

Other budget highlights:

-This is an election year, and the county estimates it will spend about $123,260 to administer elections, which include a presidential primary in February, a primary in August and a general election in November.

-Texas County’s 17 townships will share in almost $1.1 million in fuel and other taxes received by the state. The monies are used for road and bridge work.

-Operation of the county jail – including startup costs for the new 72-bed facility – is estimated at almost $1 million.

-Building and grounds work outlays total about $1.1 million.

-The county is the fiscal agent for the joint Wright-Texas County 911 operations center. Expenditures are expected to total about $423,590.

-Because of the various construction projects, total expenditures and revenues are up considerably over previous years. Total funds available in 2008 are estimated at $29.3 million. If all goes as planned, spending is pegged at $25.7 million.

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