The McCulloch County Commissioners opened their meeting Tuesday morning with a public hearing on a proposal to increase the county’s tax revenues. “We decided to leave it at the same rate as it was last year,” said McCulloch County Judge Randy Young. “However, that same rate will generate 5.67 percent more revenue for the county. “The initial budget and tax rate that I had proposed would have lowered the tax rate by one cent. Members of the public came to us and suggested that it would be better to leave it ‘as is’ and put that money back into the precincts.” All of the commissioners agreed to leave the rate the same as last year, and because the proposed increase is more than three percent, municipalities are required to conduct a public hearing to inform taxpayers of the increase. According to Young, those in attendance for Tuesday’s meeting agreed that it was prudent for the county to tax that amount. In the next regularly scheduled session, the commissioners will adopt the budget and set the tax rate. Young expects the tax rate to generate roughly $40,000 to $45,000 more in taxes than last year. Moving on to the next item on the agenda, members from the Edwards Plateau Burn Association (EPBA) made a presentation to the county commissioners in an attempt to inform the group of its recent organization. The EPBA is an educational group comprised of landowners in the area that helps oversee prescribed burns. “They get certified fire bosses’ people that are in control of these prescribed burns,” said Young. “They use scientific weather formulas to determine when conditions are favorable to do a controlled burn.” The group factors in humidity, wind, equipment and other variables before a controlled burn is considered. The association then places a certified fire boss at each controlled burn to oversee the process. Young noted that the EPBA is working closely with the local fire departments in an effort to maintain the safest controlled burn situation. “It’s a good and effective way of brush control,” explained Young. Furthermore, the association strives to make conditions safe so that everyone’s land is protected. The importance of EPBA’s visit to the commissioner’s court Tuesday morning was to make the county aware of their operation and what’s being conducted on behalf of the association. The AFLAC presentation for employee benefits was tabled until the next meeting due to unavoidable absences on behalf of the insurance company. With no change made over the past couple of years for indigent burial payments, the county commissioners voted to increase the payments to $750 for each burial. “We haven’t changed the indigent burial payments for quite some time,” said Young. “This applies only to indigent burials where the individual has no family or anyone to put up any burial funds.” Each funeral director must certify that they have not received funds for such burials other than what is allowed by the county through the indigent burial payment. In other business, Precinct 1 Commissioner Joe Johnson asked that the commissioners approve a budget amendment to allow for the purchase of a roller. The equipment is used for building roads, according to Young, and the money ($8,500) was transferred from Johnson’s reserve account into his operating fund. Visitors to the downtown county offices will soon see the use of hand-held metal detectors in the hallways of the McCulloch County Courthouse. Also approved Tuesday morning, the county commissioners agreed to purchase three portable metal detectors with courthouse security money (funds generated from court costs which can only be used for courthouse security). “We had been looking at purchasing metal detectors, but they’re quite expensive,” Young said. “We voted to buy three hand-held metal detectors so that when we have high profile court cases, the bailiffs can utilize them to ensure the safety of everyone involved.” The hand-held metal detectors will be purchased at a cost of $150 each. With a lot of trees’primarily mesquite’extending over county right-of-ways, Precinct 3 Commissioner Brent Deeds questioned whether the county could utilize community service workers to help cut, load and stack firewood in cords for possible sale. According to Young, all four precincts will participate in the project to help clear right-of-ways and will cut their own wood so that the community service workers can come in and load and stack the firewood at each individual precinct’s barn. Once a large amount of firewood is cut and stacked, the county will advertise the item for bids through a public notice. People interested in the firewood will have an opportunity to bid on as little or as much of the firewood as they want. The next McCulloch County Commissioners meeting is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 8 at 9 a.m. in the commissioner’s courtroom.