County budget planning is in progress

By Milam County Judge David Barkemeyer


Commissioner’s Court is in the midst of working out a proposed county budget plan for 2019.  We have completed our meetings with each of the county department heads and county elected officials.  In all cases we are either making reductions in next year’s expense budgets or holding the departments at the same level as their 2018 budgets.

As a result we will be proposing to reduce the 2019 General Fund expense budget overall by some $340,000 and we will be reducing the total tax revenue allocated to the four commissioner’s precincts by at least $500,000.  They will be reducing their expenditures accordingly.  These reductions will no doubt, at least in some instances, result in a reduction in our ability to deliver county services to you as effectively as before.  In fact, we’re already making some of these cuts, and gauging by some of the complaints I’ve been getting, it’s already happening.

All of this is due to the shutdown of Luminant and the resulting loss of the final $300 million (rounded number) of their property valuation from the Milam County tax roll, which was approximately 20 percent of the county’s total tax base.

We’re making these reductions in spending to minimize the increase that we will have to make in the county tax rate. The Commissioner’s Court must debate and decide what tax rate we want to set for 2018/19 which will determine the estimated 2018/19 ad valorem tax revenue that we can expect for use in 2019.  We’ll end up somewhere between zero and 5 cents increase.

If we do not raise the tax rate at all from the current 70 cents per $100 of valuation, we would spend all the General Fund reserves (I’m currently estimating that we’ll carry over up to $900,000 into 2019) and may have to borrow up to $500,000 additional.  The commissioners might be using up to a half million or more of their reserves as well.  Any increase in the tax rate will reduce the risk of having to borrow before the end of 2019 and hopefully preserve some of our reserves for future years. 

Another item that was passed at a recent Commissioner’s Court meeting and will be on the Nov. 6 ballot for your consideration is what’s called the Farm-to-Market Road and Flood Control Tax.  If passed this would allow the county to levy a separate property tax starting in 2019-20 specifically for county road and flood control construction and maintenance.

This would be an additional property tax of up to 30 cents per $100 of valuation in addition to the current county property tax which currently maxes out at 80 cents.  The two combined would allow the county to go up to $1.10 max instead of the current $.80; however the 8 percent rollback rule would still apply to the total; limiting the amount of increase that the Commissioner’s Court could increase the total of the two tax rates in any given year to a maximum of 8 percent without the possibility of a rollback election.

You the voters will need to decide whether you want to allow this additional tax in Milam County.  Over a hundred counties in Texas have it, yet can I count only 17 that have actually exceeded a combined total of over 80 cents in ad valorem taxes.