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Panola County watching oil and gas fluctuations as county budget drafting is

Tax valuations are down this year with the natural gas field, and Panola County Judge Rodger McLane says they are keeping an eye on the oil and gas industry when crafting a county budget for the upcoming year.

“I’m watching the prices are slowly going up in the you know,” McLane said. “It went over $3 the other day. And I thought, you know, wonderful, but that doesn’t beat the $9 it was a year or so ago.”

The county hosted a budget workshop in May to hear requests from department heads about their budget needs. Final tax assessments won’t be ready until sometime in mid-July, and the county’s final budget hearing is set for August, McLane said.

Right now, McLane said they don’t plan on cutting any positions, and he said there would be no major changes in the budget compared to this year.

“But this is not a time that we want to find ourselves indebted to the state or the federal government for tying our hands with certain requirements, and it’s certainly a time we can be very conscious of other pending issues that might bind us down the road,” he said. “So we’re very conscious of that, and very conscious of any spending and any future plans.”

He noted in recent years the county has purchased Mike Parker’s law office and turned it into an annex building that houses the Veterans, Extension, 911 Addressing and Emergency Management offices, as well as DPS.

“We purchased that building with ARPA money from the federal government, and if we don’t expend it all before the end of the year, we have to give it back,” he said. “So we’ve taken good care of that. We already have a lot of responsibilities on our plate. We’re aware of potentially more, and you just want to limit any kind of liability like that. You know whether or not it’s a requirement to do this or that, you know, sometimes when you hold your hand out, it comes with a lot more that you’re unaware of.”

McLane noted the county has dealt with the swings that come from the oil and gas industry’s tax valuations, which make up one of the largest chunks of the county’s revenue, through the years. It’s cyclical, he said.

He also noted county officials try to minimize how much taxpayers pay each year while providing the most service they can because of the impact taxes can have on people’s budgets.

“Our ultimate goal is to be very aware and efficient with what we have. And you know, Panola County is in a good place. And no matter what happens with the tax valuations, it’s temporary. It comes and goes. It ebbs and flows. We all know this. We all lived here a long time. We know how the economy works here and the job market, it’ll come back, and we’re looking forward to better times, but I know that we’re in good hands, and I ask that the folks of Panola County be patient and let’s see where this goes.”

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