Hidalgo County battles big budget deficit

Hidalgo County is confronting a $13.6 million budget deficit.

That's how much they expect to be in the red next year.

Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia said Hidalgo County is receiving less revenue because home prices are on the decline.

He said the county depends on the taxes those homes bring in.

The amount of taxes paid is based on how much the home is worth.

"So when those property values are down, the money coming in is also down, said Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia.

Garcia said he is trying to balance a decrease in county revenue with a spike in county spending.

He said property taxes will not be raised, but cuts are coming.

At stake are county department budgets.

Garcia said a two to three-percent cut across the board for all departments is one option.

Public safety would be excluded.

"We believe as well as all our citizens believe that crime prevention and law enforcement is the number one priority, said Garcia.

And the new budget may affect work of law enforcement.

Garcia said the county is in a pilot program to allow low-offender inmates out of jail early, with an ankle bracelet.

"They're going to be at home, said Garcia. They're going to have one of those ankle bracelets that will be monitored constantly."

Garcia said the program will save the county over $600,000 a year.

Other ways Garcia hopes to save are with stricter travel restrictions, no new hires in Hidalgo County and no employee raises.

He said furloughs are a possibility, but something he aims to avoid.

"I don't believe that is one of the options we ought to put in place, said Garcia.

The word layoff has yet to enter Garcia's budget plan.

A balanced budget is due by September.