Zapata County Judge Joe Rathmall says the budget is similar to last years, but over the past four years they've significantly cut their budget.
ZAPATA, TEXAS (KGNS) - Zapata County representatives said they were pleasantly surprised when they took a look at their funds for this upcoming year. There was a little more money than expected. Now Zapata residents and employees can relax because the cuts for this upcoming year will be sparse.
Zapata County Judge Joseph Rathmell said the county economy took a hit when the natural gas industry moved.
“Over the last twenty years, the county had become overly dependent on natural gas production and tax revenues from the production. And several years ago when natural gas production dramatically dropped, I had to cut spending.”
A lot of cutting was done. The county lost roughly $6-million from their budget and 20-percent of their workforce. Gilbert Trevino has lived in Zapata for over 25-years. He remembers Zapata being a booming place when the oil companies were here.
“It was a boom and everybody was happy because, even the ranchers because they were selling some of the livestock and everything else. It was better at that time.”
The Zapata County Commissioners approved a $15-million general fund. Getting the natural gas companies back in Zapata is a goal of Judge Rathmell's, but for now, they'll have to deal with what they got.
That’s why Zapata County representatives are hoping that voters support a new sales tax. They want to use that money to extend more programs in future years.
“It will be the first time the county has a county sales tax and I think we feel that might be the gap that will help make our budgets more sustainable in the future and not be susceptible to the volatility of the natural gas industry.”
Zapata County residents can vote on the proposed new sales tax in the November election. The county tax rate would cost people 2.5 pennies more for every dollar spent.