The 2003-2004 county budget was approved Monday morning in Commissioners Court when the group met to review and discuss the item and make its adoption official. In addition, the tax rate for the 2003-2004 fiscal year was approved as well. “We’ve hammered through this thing (the budget) quite a bit,” said McCulloch County Judge Randy Young. “I think we should be getting pretty close. The bottom line is the tax rate that it will take to balance the budget is the same as last year.” By continuing with the same rate as last year (0.4002 in general fund and 0.00134 in a special road and bridge fund), the county will be able to add over $25,000 back into the four precinct commissioners’ budgets. Next up for discussion, the commissioners heard a presentation from AFLAC representative Danny Duarte. As an agent who hails from the Austin area, Duarte represents the West Texas area and approached the commissioners with facts about his company. In delivering his pitch to the panel, he noted that AFLAC provides coverage to 70 percent of all school districts, governments and municipalities in the United States. “NFC, the county’s current provider, is not a bad company,” he said, “however, AFLAC can do the benefits they can times 10.” In continuing with his presentation, Duarte gave specific examples of the benefits AFLAC could offer the county’s employees including pay for hospitalization, physical therapy, a separate policy for heart attacks, hospice care, and additional nursing and ambulance services. “The best part of our policies is that most all of them have wellness benefits,” he said. “The bottom line is we do everything that the company you use does, but with more benefits. If you’re going to do it with these kinds of benefits, why not go with the best company out there'” After Duarte’s presentation concluded, the commissioners agreed to review the information packet provided and keep AFLAC informed of any future intent to utilize services provided by the company. The county’s existing policy won’t come up for renewal until October. In other business, Jane Holubec with the McCulloch County Extension Service informed the commissioners of her intent to proceed with five online classes to complete her masters degree. Required through the Extension Service to inform the commissioners of her intent, the item was placed on the agenda as a formality to make the commissioners aware of her proceedings. Mrs. Holubec plans to complete one course each semester over the next two years. No action was taken on the item. Up next on Monday’s agenda, the commissioners authorized County Treasurer Donna Robinett to reauthorize bank signature cards. According to Mrs. Robinett, four names are required on the bank card and two signatures (from any of the four approved individuals) are required to issue a check. Person’s names omitted from the bank card are Sylvia Campos and Nina Stuart. Linda Solsbery will join the existing three signatures, Tina Smith, Christine Jones and Mrs. Robinett. With the county’s bank depository contract coming due for renewal, the commissioner’s approved a notion to advertise for bids for a new contract. The item will be advertised for the required amount of time and bank institutions wishing to pick up a packet may do so by stopping by Mrs. Robinett’s office. After the deadline to submit an offer, the commissioners will open the bids in regular session where they will either approve the new contract or choose to review it more thoroughly. The commissioners didn’t have to take any action on the next item on the agenda because the individuals who requested that a water line easement for County Road 218 be placed on the agenda were not present. According to Young, the item could be placed on an agenda at a later date. In the final action item of the meeting, Precinct 4 Commissioner Brent Deeds made a motion to authorize Mrs. Robinett to make any necessary end-of-year blanket line item adjustments and budget amendments to balance the current budget. By authorizing this process, Mrs. Robinett will be able to “move” money around where it needs to be to close out the budget. Young noted during the meeting that at the end of a budget year, the county typically has to change line items as necessary because some budgets exceed their maximum amount while others remain well under.