Citing fiscal responsibility and economic growth during his first term, Anderson County Judge Robert Johnston hopes to continue that positive work in a second term in the county's top office, running on the March 4 Republican Primary election ticket.
Johnston was elected as county judge in November of 2010, taking office on Jan. 1, 2011. His current term concludes on Dec. 31, 2014.
“When I ran in 2010, it was on the premise of unity and fiscal responsibility and bringing those things to Anderson County,” Johnston said. “I feel that I have achieved those goals in turning the budget around with three consecutive balanced budgets and have been able to form relationships to bring economic development of Anderson County through working with the City of Palestine and the PEDC.”
Regarding the county's financial status, Johnston reported that the last three county budgets — for 2012, 2013 and 2014 — were balanced, each including raises for county employees and only a one-cent tax increase that occurred in 2012.
“When I took office in 2011, the budget was already set,” Johnston explained. “It was a deficit budget (of $1,237,127), with money being spent out of the fund balance. That first budget, in 2011, was actually less money than the 2012 and 2013 budgets.
“In 2012, over $500,000 was put back in the fund balance, which had been depleted previously,” he said, “and 2013's budget will be the same.”
Also during his tenure, the county saw the refinancing of bonds used for construction of the courthouse annex and jail improvements — a move that would save over $667,000 during the life of the bonds, Johnston said.
“We rebid the county's property-liability insurance, saving over $490,000 in a 3-year period,” Johnston said. “We also rebid the county's workers' compensation coverage, saving over $60,000, and rebid the county's electric contract, which will go into effect this year.”
In terms of economic growth, 2013 was a big year for Anderson County, Johnston said, reporting that the commissioners court approved four tax abatements — the first time that has ever occurred in a single year.