Growing tax base key to county’s budget future

With all the hullabaloo about budgeting in the meetings that I’ve been conducting this week around the county, you’d think that a budget is really important, right?

Well, it is in the sense that it is important to plan, but a plan is not worth the paper it’s written on if you don’t take action.

Besides things don’t usually come out all that close to budget at the end of the day anyway.

For example in 2011, we budgeted to take in $16.3 million in revenue but collected only $15.3 (one million short).

In the same budget, we set up to take in $10.2 million in ad valorem taxes and actually collected $11.2 ($1 million more than planned). How’s that for accurate planning.

By the way, we also budgeted to spend $16.3 million but actually spent only $14.8 million, so bottom line last year we collected $15.3M and spent only $14.8M, so we had close to a half million left over to put in reserves.

So all in all I felt like we had a successful year, even though our budgeting left quite a bit to be desired.

This year in 2012, I think we’ll be a little more accurate, but again, how do you budget for the costs of a murder trial?

Also we were able to land the Coryell County contract which was totally unforeseen at the time we set the budget. This will result in over $100,000 in expenditures and $300,000 in revenues by year end.

Sales taxes are running well ahead of budgeted expectations, probably $200,000 to $400,000 more than expected by year end. We over budgeted significantly on traffic fine collections.

I hope to build up as much as a million in general fund reserves by year end, but planned for none in the budget.

However, this could vary widely depending on the cost of the trial, for example.

So how accurate is the budget that is planned for 2013? Well, we’ll see.

In self defense, the important thing is to manage efficiently, to always be looking for opportunities for cost savings, opportunities for improvements, and ways to generate revenue.

Above all, we must look for opportunities to bring new business and industry into Milam County to grow the tax base.

The most disappointing thing to happen since I have been county judge was to see this year’s Certified Tax Roll come in with total property values lower than last year.

The amount of new improvements and new personal property on the rolls this year is down significantly from last year as well, $7.7 million vs. $13.8 million in 2011.

We simply must grow our tax base in order to prosper.

On a positive note, the new Tax Phase In Policy that has been implemented by Commissioners Court was also adopted by the Thorndale City Council recently and a new furniture manufacturing company has been attracted to Thorndale as a result.

Mayor Billy Simank related that they bring about a dozen new jobs to town with the potential for that many more to be added in the future. This is how we get there, not by raising taxes but by growing our tax base.

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2012-08-23 digital edition

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