The going gets tough

By County Judge David Barkemeyer

As I suspected, the going is getting a little difficult as the proposed 2016 budget is being discussed in the communities around the county.
The fairness of the cuts and reductions that have been proposed, which county services are more important than others, whose department provides more services than the other and deserves to have more dollars and/or personnel. “Are old cannon balls more important than our veterans?” one person challenged. Lots of arguments are being posed. The good thing in all this is that you are all coming out and expressing your opinion and participating.
The bad thing is that Milam County is in a really bad economic bind right now, and I’m not sure I’m getting the message across adequately to all of you on just how bad it is. Even if the Appraisal District wins or partially wins this latest confrontation with Luminant, it won’t be over. The reductions we’re proposing to the budget need to hold up because Luminant will be back again next year and the next. Look at the facts.
Since 2010 when Unit 5 came on the line their valuation on the tax rolls has steadily declined from $722 million in 2010 to $611 in 2011 (-13%) to $522 in 2013 (-14%) to $450 in 2014 (-14%) and this year they have proposed $110 million (-76%!). The impact on our overall Milam County tax roll has been to cause us to decline 15% during this five year period already and if they win this year we will be down 30%!
Our economic woes won’t be over until we somehow get some economic growth going in this county. O.K. I’ll be the bad guy. We need to reduce personnel in the County Clerk’s Office, the Tax Office, the District Clerk’s Office, the Veteran’s Service Office, the Health Department, and other places, too, and that means reduced county services because we don’t (and won’t) have the tax revenue to support the current levels.
Not only that, but we cannot afford to raise our county tax level from where it is at $.652 to the maximum allowable state level of $.80 per $100 to pay for more services because that will even further thwart economic development in this county.
So you can anticipate me being against restoring the budget reductions even if the Appraisal District is successful in defending their valuation of the Luminant property this year. So I will continue to be the bad guy, regardless of the outcome of this current conflict with Luminant, because I know it won’t be over.