Commissioners Corner: Melvin Hunt Liberty County Pct. 3
Cleveland Advocate 03/01/2005
Unfunded mandates can have a devastating effect
You will at times have the occasion when the federal or state government will pass laws that pass mandates to county government. Most of the time it is the responsibility of the county governments to pay for these mandates out of county tax dollars. These types of laws are called "unfunded mandates." They often have a devastating effect on the budgets of the county governments that are responsible for implementing them.
One good example of this type of law is "The Indigent Health Care Act" passed in 1986 by state government. This law was to be implemented by county governments with no funding from the State of Texas. Because of this law Liberty County had to cut every department in county government by ten percent and raise the property taxes in order to meet the mandates of this "unfunded mandate." In the next year's budget Liberty County had to cut every department five percent and once again raise the property taxes. My road and bridge budget shrank radically. This "unfunded mandate" caused havoc for the counties of Texas.
We now have a new mandate to implement. The Help America Vote Act was signed into law in October of 2002.This law was passed by the federal government and created many new election related mandates for state and local governments. This new act will be administered by the Secretary of State. This new law decrees that no later than January 1, 2006, that each polling place within the county must have a voting system that is certified by the Secretary of State. This new system must be accessible for individuals with disabilities. This system shall include non-visual accessibility for the blind and vision impaired. This system shall provide the same opportunity for privacy and independence as for other voters.
Liberty County Clerk Delia Sellers has managed to get a price to buy the machines to be in total compliance with this new law. The machine pricing is broken down by parts. The first part that we have a price for is a model 650 central scanner priced at $38,500.The next part of the voting machine is a HAVA ADA AutoMARK Voter Assist which has a price of $172,800.Next you have installation costs at $4,110.The next phase is Hardware Acquisition Costs at $215,410.The final item for the voting machine is project management days. That brings the total cost for the voting machines to $234,910.That amounts to 1.5 cents on your tax rate.
Our County Clerk Delia Sellers discovered that you can receive grants to offset the expense of implementing this new act. We have applied for this grant in hopes of helping with the expense of this act.