GOP Commissioner candidates raise public safety concerns over bu - FOX34 Lubbock

GOP Commissioner candidates raise public safety concerns over budget proposal

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Lubbock County Commissioners informing departments who submitted budget requests that many of those will not be met. 

This is due to a proposed effective tax rate that is one cent less than the current rate. While this is not a done deal, the Lubbock County Sheriff's Office is concerned. 

Republican commissioner candidates Jason Corley and Chad Seay are concerned the proposed budget endangers public safety by cutting funds from the sheriff's office; however, County Commissioner Gilbert Flores disagrees. 

"I don't think there's any department within the county that's not going to get what they need," Flores said.

According to Seay, Sheriff Kelly Rowe had been asked to cut his budget of last year by 16.6 percent which totals out to a $2.52 million cut from the previous year. 

Flores said the commissioners are simply fulfilling constituents' requests. 

"We're considering lowering our tax rate, that leaves one penny from 0.358 to 0.348," Flores said. "So that in turn lowers your tax rate so the central appraisal would apply to homes throughout the county." 

In turn, this means budgets that were set out for new equipment, vehicles, and radio systems are now put on hold. 

"What's clear to me is during a time when law enforcement is targeted and crime and new gangs are on the rise, we cannot cut budgets for things like bullet proof vests for our officers," Corley said. 

Sheriff Kelly Rowe said he is frustrated. He met with a commissioner Tuesday and said when he left the meeting, he felt as if politics were involved. 

"Those saying like were use to talking about in Washington DC, that elections have consequences, that's what we're seeing here and that's what I was told as, this was purely about the outcome of the election," Rowe said. 

Rowe said when he brought up the work load this is going to cause for next year's budget, he was simply told, they will have to deal with it. 

"That again, just tells me everything I need to know about what kind of motivations were behind the scenes, on doing such an arbitrary or significant cut like this," Rowe said. 

When it comes to providing his deputies and jailers what he believes they need, he is going to do it. 

"Bottom line is we cannot sacrifice on certain things," Rowe said. "I'm not going to sit there tell you, the public, or my staff in that matter because we didn't get budgeted for increase cost in body armor, we're not going to provide it, we'll provide it, but it'll be at the cost of something else down the road." 

Flores said there are many departments including IT and Roads and Bridges who will also have to bite the bullet and make adjustments. 

"I do what my taxpayers want," Flores said. "At this point, I feel like they want us to lower the taxes, but they have to understand by lowering our tax rate we're giving up a lot of stuff that we need to do."

Flores said he would consider keeping the rate flat by adopting last year's. This could allow an additional $1.8 million to potentially distribute.

The budget proposal will be open to the public on August 31st, a public meeting will follow if needed. Commissioners plan to adopt the budget and tax rate on September 10th. 

This story has been updated to reflect Chad Seay and Jason Corley are not Commissioners-elect; they are opposed in the November election by Democrats T.G. Caraway and Nick Harpster respectively. Election Day is November 6.

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