With just barely a quorum present, Brown County Commissioners voted to continue to levy a tax on goods-in-transit through the county.

The action was listed on the court’s Monday agenda as a public meeting. One citizen, Bob Steger, who regularly attends county commissioners’ court sessions, did address the court, saying by that by opting out the county is “telling businesses out in the county we’re giving every tax break possible.”

House Bill 621, passed in the last session of the Texas Legislature, implemented a 2001 constitutional amendment that exempted goods in transit within the state from property taxes. Somewhat unusually, the exemption is granted unless the taxing jurisdiction chooses to opt out and continue to levy the tax. The option is always year-to-year and can be changed at the end of one year.

Any taxing entity, such as the county, school districts and other taxing entities may continue to tax inventory eligible for the new freeport exemption, but a vote approving the action must be made by each entity prior to Jan. 1, 2008. Because of the Christmas and New Year’s holiday, the court won’t be in session again before Jan. 7, 2008

Precinct 1 Commissioner Steve Adams and Precinct 2 Commissioner Joel Kelton were both absent from the regular session court meeting, Adams due to illness and Kelton was out of town. Brown County Judge Ray West, Precinct 3 Commissioner Richard Gist and Precinct 4 Commissioner Larry Traweek all voted in favor of continuing the tax levy.

Because not all commissioners were present for Monday’s meeting, those present agreed to pass on the consideration and possible approval of a tax abatement agreement for Renewable Energy Systems.

But commissioners did discuss and approve guidelines and criteria for granting a tax abatement. Abatements expire two years after they are granted, and Brown County last granted an abatement to DanHil Containers Inc. in 2001. That abatement expired in 2003, but provided the basic language for the newly adopted guidelines with minor additions.

For one, in 2001, the definition of “eligible properties” would not have included wind turbine generators or “certified renewable energy sources,” and now the general abatement agreement will include mention of those.

And finally, the court approved doubling the salary of Dr. John Dunn, the jail medical professional, from $12,000 annually, to $24,000 annually. Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Bobby Duvall told commissioners under Dunn’s management, medical expenses in the jail had decreased significantly in the two years Dunn had been on staff, but that the level of care had improved.

However, Duvall said, the medical budget so far this fiscal year was right in line with where it should be. Other sheriff’s office budget lines, specifically the employee salaries line, could accommodate the salary increase, but it didn’t appear the increase could be absorbed in the jail medical line.