County begins budget planning

By David Barkemeyer

Milam County Judge


This week we begin the process of planning the 2019 county budget.  The commissioners and I and our auditor, Danica Lara will meet with each of the elected officials and department heads to discuss their departmental budgets, and then Commissioner’s Court will put together the proposed budget and tax rate for next year.

As county budget director, I’m responsible for the overall direction of the effort.  In past years, I have asked each to come to the meeting ready to discuss their department’s needs and requests including their thoughts on pay increases.

This year my instructions have been different in light of the Luminant plant closing and the potential loss of an estimated $1.7 million in tax revenue based on the preliminary county tax roll figures I have received from the Appraisal District.  Instead I have asked each to come prepared to discuss where in their department each can best cut expenditures, to not come asking for increases, but to come prepared to face reality with the rest of us.

I am asking you the citizens of Milam County to also be prepared to face the reality with us as well.  County services are going to have to be cut next year and the county tax rate will have to be increased as well to balance the budget.

As budget director I have proposed to the commissioners the following targets to get us started in rebalancing the budget in light of this $1.7 million loss in revenue:  that each precinct be allocated some $125,000 less in tax revenue (totaling $500,000 less for Commissioner’s precincts), that the sheriff’s department budget be reduced by $100,000, all other general fund departments be reduced by a total of a minimum of $150,000, the county tax rate be increased by 5 cents to 75 cents resulting in $600,000 in additional revenue.  We can expect about $150,000 in additional revenue from other sources (fines, fees, etc.)  

This would cover some $1.5 million of the lost revenue.  We will strive to hold all other expenditures at zero increase and cover all other shortfalls from our reserves funds.  Of course, as I’ve said to the commissioners, these proposals give us a start in the budget planning process; they will come to the budget planning meetings with their ideas as well and we’ll get ‘er done together.

I believe this proposal is fair to you as taxpayers as well as to our department heads and county employees, considering the situation we are currently in.  Yes it is harsh and it is punishing to our progress as a county.  Nevertheless, I am optimistic about our future.  I believe we are on the eve of better times and that these measures are only temporary.  The economic development efforts that have been underway for some time now are going to pay off.  I’m confident that curtailed services will be restored soon, and tax rates will come back down, and Milam County will be on the way to recovery.