Proposed tax rates encounter questions

By Curtis Chubb

Special to the Herald


The Milam County Budget for 2017 was the hot topic issue for Monday’s meeting of the Milam County Commissioners Court.  Statements made by the public were both critical and helpful concerning the proposed $18.6 million budget.  While the corrections to the proposed tax rate information announced by Milam County Judge David Barkemeyer raised questions.  

During the public participation period, Former Milam County Judge Frank Summers suggested an alternative to the county’s plans to use Tax Anticipation Notes to borrow $800,000 to make it through this year.  The Notes would be repaid early next year using property tax income identified for next year’s budget.  Summers thought it would cost less if the county used $800,000 from property tax income already collected for next year’s budget instead of using the Notes.  Summers said that this financial arrangement had been used many times in the past for Milam County.  Barkemeyer said that he would explore that option.

Then concerned citizen Franklin Stewart questioned if the pay raises approved on Aug. 8 and already in effect for 52 county employees were the right thing to do since the county will have to borrow money to make it through this year.  

Another taxpayer, Wayne Horkheimer, presented a list of 12 concerns to the commissioners court.  On that list, he questioned if it is appropriate to have $102,000 budgeted for county employee travel “without any requirement to justify that travel was for County work.”

The first agenda item dealing with errors in the proposed tax rates/budget focused on the “Effective Tax Rate for Maintenance and Operation.”  Originally, this tax rate was listed as $0.680168/$100. Barkemeyer explained that the sales tax had not been factored in the calculation of this effective tax rate. The sales tax factor is included on the Comptroller’s Rollback Tax Rate Worksheet. Factoring in the sales tax changed the “Effective Tax Rate for M&O” to $0.605941/$100.  

This change has a direct impact on the rollback tax rate since the “Effective Tax Rate for M&O” is used to calculate the rollback tax rate by multiplying it by 1.08 and then adding the debt tax rate (see Comptroller’s website). Using this calculation, the rollback tax rate is $0.6980/$100 which is less than the rollback tax rate of $0.703957/$100 listed on the proposed budget sheets.

The change in the rollback tax rate is a problem because the proposed tax rate of $0.70/$100 exceeds the rollback tax rate.  If the proposed tax rate is adopted, it will allow citizens to circulate a petition calling for an election to limit the size of the tax increase, according to the Comptroller. 

The second agenda item dealing with errors in the proposed tax rates/budget focused on the “Notice to Public of Proposed Pay Increases for County Elected Officials.”  

Barkemeyer explained that to be more accurate, the county added a clarification that at present the Milam County Sheriff’s compensation consists of a base salary of $61,650 with a $7,500 allowance.   But during the budget negotiations, the commissioners court had decided to declare the allowance as part of his base salary.  

So on Jan. 1, the Sheriff’s base salary will be listed as $69,150 which is important because the already-approved salary increase uses the base salary as the starting point for the increase.  Contingent upon settlement of Luminant’s lawsuit, the new salary for the Sheriff will be $70,383.  Precinct 2 Commissioner Donald Shuffield’s motion to approve the change was approved by a unanimous vote.

If you want to voice your opinion about the proposed budget/tax rates (both are on the county’s website), you can contact your commissioner and/or Barkemeyer.  Also, Barkemeyer has scheduled meetings at the following locations to discuss the proposed budget (all start at 6:30 p.m.): Milano Fire Station on Aug. 29, Thorndale Chamber of Commerce on Aug. 30, Buckholts Community Center on Aug. 31 and Gause Fire Station on Sept. 1. 

In other business, the commissioners court:

• Ordered a general election to be held on Nov. 8, 2016, in Milam County to elect the 20th Judicial District Judge, County Attorney, County Sheriff, County Tax Assessor-Collector, Precinct 1 Commissioner, Precinct 3 Commissioner, Constables for all four Precincts, and County Chair for the Republican and Democrat Parties;

• Accepted ‘Certificates of Attendance’ to the ‘Texas Secretary of State’s 34th Annual Election Law Seminar for County Election Officials’ for Nancy Tucker and Jodi Morgan, both of the Milam County Clerk’s Office;

• Accepted the resignation of Jamie Larson as Precinct 317 Election Judge;

• Appointed Beth Keen as Precinct 317 Election Judge;

• Denied the Twisted Nail Bar’s request to extend hours for selling beer until 2 AM (denied due to a lack of a motion);

• Tabled approving salaries for the County Auditor and District Court Reporter because the salary increases will be contingent upon the settlement of the Luminant challenge of their property tax appraisal;

• Adopted the “Design Values” to be used for Milam County bridge replacement and rehabilitation projects; and

• Approved the sale of a 2012 Chevrolet Caprice police vehicle for $8,000 to Precinct 3 Constable Jay Beathard for the official use of his office