Every Harris County employee will receive a cost-of-living raise ranging from 4 to 12 percent in the coming year under the $2.4 billion budget unanimously approved by Commissioners Court Tuesday.
The spending plan also includes a $21 million expansion of the county’s public defender’s office, a 14 percent increase in funding for each commissioner’s office and additional money for the sheriff, district attorney and constables’ offices.
The cost-of-living adjustments, which will be paid throughout the fiscal year, are intended to help restore salary boosts lost last year after the county defaulted to its no-new-revenue property tax rate.
The approved plan represents a roughly $300 million increase over the current budget, as well as a $128 million operating budget for the Harris County Flood Control District.
“This budget builds a future in which communities are safer, healthier, and better protected from flooding and climate change,” said Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis in a statement. “It represents a set of investments in a more just legal system, expanded access to health care, housing, and jobs, and the advancement of fair and free elections.”
The 2024 fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
To support the increased spending, the court also set the overall county property tax rate at 53.03 cents per $100 of assessed value, slightly down from the current rate of 53.06 cents.
The vote marks the sixth straight year the county has cut the tax rate.
Nonetheless, new development and increasing property values are expected to put an additional $300 million into the county’s coffers.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey, who skipped six meetings last year to prevent the court from setting a property tax rate he and former Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle said was too high, said he voted in favor of the county budget because of its “significant commitment” to law enforcement in Harris County.
Although the court unanimously approved the county’s budget, Ramsey voted against the Harris Health System’s proposed tax rate and budget.
A spokeswoman said Ramsey opposed the hospital district budget and tax rate because he had too many questions about Harris Health’s deferred maintenance and financial management. Additionally, she said, the district has not provided timelines for renovations to Ben Taub Hospital or the construction of new clinics.
Harris Health will ask voters in November to approve $2.5 billion in bonds to expand and update Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital, renovate Ben Taub and upgrade and add clinics across the county.
Both the health system’s tax rate and budget passed despite Ramsey’s objections.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the size of some cost of living raises for county employees. The story has been updated to reflect that the raises will range from 4 to 12 percent.