Here’s how Milam stacks up on tax rate

How do you know if your county tax rate is a good rate? Is 60 cents too high, too low, or just about right?

Well, most of my conser vative friends would probably say, “There’s no such thing as a good tax rate.” So we’ll take that as a given, but since Will Rogers (or somebody famous) said, “Nothing’s certain but death and taxes”, let’s go ahead and analyze our situation anyway.

Not knowing much about what is actually going on in the county itself, population and size of tax base are probably the two primary factors that an outside observer can look at in comparing county ad valorem taxes.

So to start the discussion, of the 254 Texas counties, 76 have ad valorem tax rates of 61 cents or higher than ours and 177 have tax rates lower than ours.

(This analysis is based on 2010 data which is the latest state wide data that I could get my hands on. Our tax rate was 61 cents then vs. 60 cents now.)

Comparatively the counties will not have changed that much, so I believe this analysis is a good one.

At first blush, I’m sure you will say, like I did, that this doesn’t look good at all being in the top 30% of counties with the highest tax rates in the state.

But let’s look a little closer. Of those 177 with tax rates lower than us, 101 of those had higher tax bases than Milam County, many of them significantly higher.

So as a generalization, when you have a higher tax base, you can usually go with a lower tax rate, having a larger base to work with, thus generating a larger dollar amount of taxes. Of those remaining 76 counties with lower tax bases as well as a lower tax rate than ours, only six had larger populations than Milam County (Bee, Cass, Hopkins, Shelby, Upshur, and Val Verde).

I need to go look and see how they do it! So all the rest have fewer people than we do. And 48 (almost 2/3) have populations of less than half that of ours, a half dozen with populations of less than a thousand. So the conclusion should be that with significantly lower populations they should be able to run their counties with less money resulting in a lower tax rate.

There are probably other ways of analyzing the data, but this macro look with size of population and tax base as the considerations leads me to the conclusion that our tax rate is reasonable when compared to other counties of similar population and tax base.

When c ompa red to ou r 10 neighboring counties that I visited recently, four had higher and six had lower tax rates, while five were larger and five smaller in terms of tax base, and four larger and six smaller in terms of population. To me the most important questions remaining to be answered are: “Are we getting the most for our tax dollars in the way of infrastructure and services and are we delivering the right mix of those goods and services?”

My goal while your county judge is to continually work on improving the delivery of those services, improv ing our infrastructure (roads, etc.), and striving to grow our tax base through new business and jobs to Milam County.

If we are successful, we should eventually be able to reduce our county tax rate as well.

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2012-05-24 digital edition

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