The challenge that lies ahead

By David Barkemeyer, Milam County Judge


Unfortunately these last few months of my tenure as county judge are going to have to be largely dominated by the unsavory task of having to put together a county budget plan for 2019 that is faced with another significant drop in ad valorem tax revenue due to another major decline in the county’s tax base.

I’m sure a lot of you out there are saying, “What are you talking about? I just got my letter from the Appraisal District and my house and/or land or business valuation just went up big time.”  Well, mine did, too.

But I also just received a letter of “Certification of 2018 Preliminary Values” for all of Milam County and the net taxable value has decreased to $1.509 billion with the freeze adjusted value being at $1.274 billion.

The chief appraiser’s estimate of final value for 2018 - which is her estimate of what the values will be after the settlement of all protests - is $1.439 billion net taxable and $1.204 billion freeze adjusted taxable.  The 2017 values after the settlement of the Luminant law suit and after resolution of all protests were $1.634 billion net taxable and $1.442 billion freeze adjusted taxable value of our county tax base.

This is a $242 million drop in our county tax base if these initial estimates hold true or an estimated $1.7 million loss in county tax revenue at the current 70 cent tax rate.

I’ll point out again that these figures are “preliminary” and “estimated” but never-the-less they indicate where we’re headed.

If Commissioner’s Court were to raise the county’s tax rate to 75 cents per $100 of valuation (+5 cents), we would raise about $600,000 in additional taxes; if we went to 80 cents (which is the maximum tax rate that a county is allowed to assess by state law) we would raise an additional $1.2 million, still a half million short of the amount needed to have the same revenue available as we had this year.

Since there are no other additional significant sources of revenue available to the county, this means that Milam County government must cut our budget expenditures and thus our county services, even if we raise county taxes to the maximum rate allowed which is 80 cents per $100 of valuation.

I will keep you posted as county officials and Commissioner’s Court proceed to plan the 2019 budget and decide how to deal with this dilemma that we face due to the loss of this significant portion of the Milam County tax base.