November not right time for road bond election
David Barkemeyer
Milam County Judge

A t the beginning of the year in my “State of the County” report, I announced that the commissioners and I were in the process of developing a proposal for your consideration to permanently surface approximately 100 miles of county roads over the next five years at an estimated additional cost of $5 million.

We would propose a special bond election this November and would not proceed without taxpayer approval and would not do so if we could not fit the repayment into the budget without increasing ad valorem taxes above the current 60-cent rate.

Obviously this is going to be a challenge even if we can convince you to vote for the proposition.

This past week we held a special workshop session of commissioner’s court to discuss this proposal.

SAMCO Capital, our financial consultants, were present at the meeting, and we discussed placing the issue on the ballot in the special constitutional amendment election coming up in November. The proposition would have read.

“The issuance of $5 million of Milam County Road Bonds for county road construction and improvement; and the levying of a tax in payment thereof.”

Voters would vote “ for” or “against.” I asked the question, “Could the wording be changed to ‘and no additional tax would be levied”?

The answer was you never know what might happen in 20 years, for example if Luminant shuts down and you can’t levy additional taxes, then you have a problem. So taxpayers must support the need for road improvements without an iron clad guarantee that there will not be any new taxes.

However, in the workshop our concern was that the timing is not good for adding bond debt this year, primarily due to the uncertainty of the costs of the impending murder trials, the first being scheduled to begin in October.

Therefore, in our May 13 commissioner’s court meeting we voted to not proceed with the road bond proposal, but will take another look at its feasibility next year, once we have a better handle on the actual cost impact of the trials.

Depending on the total costs, we may actually be required to borrow money to pay for these trials.

This will not require taxpayer approval since the loans would be repaid within seven years. However our financial consultants advised us that commissioners court needed to adopt a reimbursement resolution before the trial begins in October so that the county judge will be equipped to borrow the necessary funds should the need arise.

In conclusion, I firmly believe this is the right decision for us to make at this time.

We would not be able to fit both an additional road bond repayment and a large trial payment into the budget next year.

But when we get past that difficulty, I’ll be back because I’m convinced that the improvement of our county roads is top priority.

If we get lucky and our tax base grows and our county revenue increases such that we have the additional funds needed to finance the road improvements without needing the bonds, then that’s even better.

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2013-05-16 digital edition

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