Gradually rebounding from the effects of the year-long coronavirus pandemic, Ector County’s rural economy is fueling sales taxes in the assistance district OK’d by voters in 2018 to the point that commissioners expect fiscal 2020-21 revenues to exceed the $12 million they budgeted for last summer.

Commissioners Mike Gardner in the western Precinct 1, where the voters had reacted to an illegal dumping plague by backing the district, and Greg Simmons in Precinct 2, which includes Gardendale, say this year’s revenues won’t match the $17,480,615 collected in 2019-20, but they may top $14 million.

And they say that’s good news because the assistance district-mandated bolstering of the sheriff’s office, rural roads and environmental enforcement will thereby not be impeded.

“Sheriff Griffis is getting 27 new Chevy Tahoes this summer and we’re doing a good bit with roads like Cottonwood across the north part of the county from U.S. 385 to Highway 1788,” Gardner said. “Rush Peterbilt is doing some finishing touches on our new grapple truck for environmental enforcement to use with the 10 roll-off dumpsters we’ll have on property the county owns at Tripp and Boyles off the North I-20 service road.

“We would have to make some adjustments if we didn’t get at least $12 million, but it looks like it will be there or a little above.”

Gardner referred to reports from Texas Comptroller’s Office showing comparative receipts from the 1.25-cent sales tax in January this year and last year, respectively, of $1,083,821 and $1,756,692; the two Februaries, $1,473,792 and $2,110,178; the two Marches, $1,523,843 and $1,885,134; and the two Aprils, $1,134,197 and $1,694,233.

Receipts through April this calendar year were $5,215,652 compared to $7,446,237 for the same period last year.

Simmons said that while the numbers are down so far, they are heartening inasmuch as revenues look likely to exceed expectations. “I will guess that it may even be as high as $14 million,” he said.

Noting the $1,045,618 collected last September and last October’s $1,061,446, Simmons said every month since then has been at least in the $1.1-million to $1.2-million range. “The sheriff has used the bulk of it to hire more deputies and replace equipment,” he said.

“The new deputies need new vehicles for themselves and to take home, which will help with the law enforcement presence and the response times when they’re called back to work. We’re doing quite a bit of road construction and are getting caught up on some of the road maintenance.

“We have doubled the environmental enforcement budget,” Simmons said. “We bought off-road vehicles for the officers to go into some of these fields to try and catch and remediate the illegal dumping. We bought several roll-off dumpsters and we’re waiting on a big truck to move those around to different locations.”

He referred to the $266,938 grapple truck and the court’s $2.5-million expenditure for the Tahoes that are coming from Parkway Chevrolet in Tomball, north-northwest of Houston.

Other sales tax revenues last year were $1,838,516 in May, $1,405,312 in June, $1,099,450 in July, $1,148,730 in August, $1,227,096 in November and $1,208,210 in December.