County budget includes tax rate increase

By Milam County Judge David Barkemeyer


The Commissioner’s Court has the proposed 2019 budget plan ready to be posted which includes a proposed three-cent increase in the 2018-19 county tax rate to 73 cents per $100 of valuation.

I will be holding budget meetings around the county the last few days of August and we will hold two public hearings before voting on the final budget and tax rate in the Sept. 10 Commissioner’s Court meeting.  

There was considerable debate among the five of us this time on whether to raise the tax rate at all or to leave it at 70 cents, and we were almost equally divided on the issue. I’ll accept all the blame for the proposed 2019 budget containing the three-cent increase.  Here’s why.

I had already asked the commissioners to each accept $125,000 less in their portion of the ad valorem tax revenue for next year, so in effect contributing a total of $500,000 ($125,000 x 4) to the General Fund side of the county budget to make up for the loss in tax revenue due to the Luminant closing.  The argument from one of the commissioners was that they each give up as much as it would take (which would be about $215,000 each) or some $850,000 total to make the General Fund budget work out without having to increase the county tax rate.  It was my opinion that this would put too much strain on our road program in the county, particularly in certain precincts.

I believe that we the taxpayers need to support keeping our precincts doing as much as possible to keep our county roads maintained during this budget crunch, rather than significantly cutting back in some areas and/or overly depleting reserves.

General Fund departments have cut budgets over $300,000 to help cover the revenue losses as well.  To balance the General Fund budget, we are building in the $900,000 reserve that we anticipate carrying over from 2018.  However, as a precautionary measure, I have included the ability to borrow up to half a million dollars as a safety valve in case of an emergency or any other unexpected expenditure.

Normally, to be financially sound, the financial advisors recommend that as a rule of thumb a county should carry at least a three month or 20 percent General Fund reserve, which in our case would be about $3 million.  We are at less than a million at best which is not good, so we need to proceed very cautiously into 2019; in my opinion we need to do the three-cent tax increase and we need to be prepared to borrow if necessary.