Charges fly as tax rate passes

Critics, county judge exchange words during public hearing
Reporter Editor

County Judge Frank Summers studies latest handout from budget critic Wayne Horkheimer at Monday’s public hearing. Commissioners later voted unanimously to adopt the budget and a 60-cent tax rate. County Judge Frank Summers studies latest handout from budget critic Wayne Horkheimer at Monday’s public hearing. Commissioners later voted unanimously to adopt the budget and a 60-cent tax rate. After thousands of words, pro and con, in past weeks about the proposed $16.3-million Milam County budget and 60-cent tax rate, both were approved Monday in a unanimous vote of county commissioners.

That vote was preceded by a 15-minute public hearing in which more words were exchanged, some conciliatory, some confrontational.

At one point County Judge Frank Summers, responding to a handout offered by frequent budget critic Wayne Horkheimer, told him: “Some of your miscommunications and misstatements are beyond belief.”

MEETINGS— Loal D. Cole, who also presented a handout prior to the hearing, said two recent meetings in Cameron between concerned citizens and county officials were “productive” and “helpful in allaying suspicions, misunderstandings and anger because of prior stonewalling by elected officials.”

“Right now we’re about where we should have been three months ago,” he said.

Cole said “many questions were answered and many misunderstandings cleared up.”

Cole, Horkheimer and others had asked the county to adopt the 55.0649-cent effective tax rate instead of the proposed 60-cent rate.

Current rate is 61 cents. MISQUOTE— Summers asked who was the author of another handout which also referenced meetings between county officials and citizens.

Horkheimer said he had written the handout and signed it.

Summers objected to a section which quoted him saying “(Summers) stated he will not correct his (budget) errors this year.”

Summers addressed Horkheimer: “Mr. Horkheimer, this court has been very lenient with you and your miscommunications and misstatements.”

Summers said he did not make the statement quoted in the handout. “What I stated was there are some things we’ve been doing the way we’ve always done and we probably need to look at changing that.

“I will graciously defend your right to your own opinion but you don’t have the right to your own facts,” Summers said.

“You keep telling us about these hundreds and thousands of people who are going to be descending upon the door of the courthouse and it continues to be the same group,” he said.

Horkheimer’s handout repeated the charges that the budget contained $700,000 in “gross misstatements” for fees of office income and fuel and lubricants expense and maintained the citizens group had identified potential reductions of $1.5 million.

DELAY— Darrell Lister asked commissioners to abstain or vote against the budget and tax rate in the regular session which followed the public hearing so concerned citizens can continue to study the document.

“We need a little more time,” he said.

Cole made a plea for more cooperation between the county and citizens groups.

“We have a lot of talent in this community,” he said. “We want to use our knowledge and experience to make this an even better place to live.”

Summers said the 60-cent tax rate will decrease county taxes on a $100,000 home by an average of $5.52.

In other business Monday, commissioners:

• Opened bids on construction of the new Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace building in Rockdale. Summers appointed a committee composed of himself, Commissioner Burke Bauerschlag and Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Twila Harris to study the bids and make a recommendation.

Bids ranged between $97,000 and $249,000.

• Okayed a request by County Clerk Barbara Vansa to spend $31,900 to scan 58,000 documents from the county records.

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The burn ban for Milam County has been lifted. Burning is always prohibited in the county's municipalities.

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