Columns/Opinions

Tue
15
May

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.

Thu
03
May

Local elections need your attention

By Terry Wilson, Texas House District 20

 

“Everything’s bigger in Texas.” That’s been an unofficial slogan for the Lone Star State for as long as I can remember, and it’s true in so many ways. We have the second largest land mass of any state, and the second largest population. We have the 10th largest economy in the world, ahead of Australia and Russia. But there is one thing in Texas that isn’t that big - our voter turnout, and low voter turnout can have dire consequences, especially in local elections.

Mon
05
Mar

Solving the property tax paradox

By Terry WIlson, Texas House District 20

On the March 6 primary ballot, both the Republican and Democrat primaries have proposed planks that deal with education and education finance. Before we vote on these proposals, let’s reflect on the history of public-school finance and explore the challenges our current system faces along with the proposed changes. 

Of the 13 grievances in the Texas Declaration of independence, a lack of public education was listed right in-between being denied the right to a jury trial, and the dissolving of the Texas Legislature by the Mexican army. We can certainly see how our founding fathers valued education.  

When our current constitution was written in 1876, the framers once again placed education at the forefront; requiring the legislature to “provide and fund an efficient system of public schools to provide for the general diffusion of knowledge.”

Thu
11
Jan

County carrying reserves forward

By David Barkemeyer

Milam County Judge

 

As I said in my article in late December, I expected that we would end the year with most of our general fund reserves intact, and that is what did in fact happen.  We are carrying forward $890,000 into the new year as a result of ending 2017 with total general fund revenues of $10.725 million and expenditures of $10.808 million which includes the $200,000 that we spent for the new building we built in Thorndale to house our offices there (we did this instead of financing that project).

The general fund revenues were some $450,000 (or 4.4 percent) ahead of budget and expenditures were $260,000 (or 2.2 percent) under budget (-4.2 percent if you don’t count the building which was really a capital expenditure), so budget wise we also had a good year.

Thu
04
Jan

Court makes new POSGD appointments

By David Barkemeyer

Milam County Judge

 

This past week in Commissioner’s Court we voted on candidates for new four-year terms on the Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District Board of Directors. Two incumbents were voted back on unanimously to serve a second term, Sidney Youngblood as the industrial representative and Durwood Tucker as the agricultural representative.

The third opening was that of the municipal representative. That spot had been filled by Kerry Starnes of Rockdale. Starnes had been on the board since it had been formed.  There were three nominees for his replacement - Chris Whittaker, City Manager of Rockdale; Keith Kiesling, City Manager of Thorndale; and Judith McGeary who had been nominated by Cameron and Milano City Councils, all of whom received votes from commissioner’s court members with Chris Whittaker winning the nomination in the runoff vote.

Fri
08
Sep

County is planning ahead

By David Barkemeyer

Milam County Judge

 

One of the statements that I’ve made regarding the planning of the 2018 budget is that several of the things we’ve done are in anticipation of what might be happening to us in 2018 when we’re planning the budget for 2019 and beyond.

And what we are trying to anticipate is that we may very well be back in a mode of uncertainty with respect to the Milam County tax base, anticipating that it may again take another plunge downward like it’s done over the past several years, and we will again be in a very tight financial situation for one or more years.

If that happens, we will again be unable to grant pay increases, may be postponing maintenance, reducing personnel, and so on.

Thu
31
Aug

Milam County employees do make a difference

By David Barkemeyer

Milam County Judge

 

In the community meetings that I held this past two weeks, I emphasized that some 30% of the county government’s revenue comes from sources other than property taxes.  And the efforts of our county employees plays a huge role in the generation of these additional funds.

I pointed out that about half a million dollars is generated in county and district court from felony and misdemeanor case settlements were fines and fees are paid, some while the individuals are on probation.  Many county employees in the district and county judge’s offices, the county and district clerk’s offices, the DA’s office, adult probation office, sheriff’s office and Jail are involved in this effort.

Thu
10
Aug

Commissioners set county budget, tax rate

By David Barkemeyer

Milam County Judge

 

This year’s budgeting process has been one of making necessary adjustments as we come out of some three years of financial uncertainty caused by the substantial downward adjustment to the valuation of the Luminant property and the negative impact that the anticipated loss in revenue has had on county operations.

Thu
20
Jul

County begins 2018 budget

By David Barkemeyer

Milam County Judge

 

The commissioners and I have concluded meeting with each of the elected officials and department heads this past week to discuss their 2018 budget requests for their department, and now the five of us will now meet together in workshop sessions to prepare the final draft of next year’s county budget and proposed tax rate.  It will be ready for public viewing on the web site and at the county clerk’s office on Aug. 4.

Public hearings will be held in the county court room in the courthouse at 9 a.m. on Aug. 31 and Sept. 6.  I do not make presentations at these two meetings; they are scheduled in order to fulfill legal requirements to receive public comments. Last year a couple of you complained in those meetings that they were held during the day during working hours when it was difficult for working citizens to attend.

Thu
13
Jul

Texas 85th Legislature: The Ugly

By Rep. Terry Wilson

Texas House District 20

Over the last two articles, we looked at the good and the bad from the 85th Texas Legislative Session; first, how legislators from all sides came together to build a budget agreement, and then how a fight over differing political agendas brought the session to a stand-still that necessitated a special session this July. 

Now that I’ve given you the good and the bad, it’s time to face the ugly truths that set the stage for both. We have come to a place in our politics where persuasion isn’t even considered anymore, where cooperation is a dirty word, and where defeat of the opposition is the only option considered.  

One of the advantages of being a “freshman” legislator is that it enabled me to be just that, a fresh-man, one coming into this system from the outside, viewing it with fresh eyes, unaffected by its culture and history. 

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