Tough decisions ahead in 2014 budget process
David Barkemeyer
Milam County Judge

I , along with the other members of the commissioner’s court, have been working to prepare a balanced 2014 budget proposal that will be presented to you in the coming weeks. This has been a major challenge.

First, as we anticipated, we received word that the Appraisal Review Board (ARB) had reached agreement with Luminant on the valuation of their properties at some $100 million less than last year, so the Milam County certified tax roll which we received from the Appraisal District this week revealed that our taxable values overall are over $80 million lower than last year.

This means that at our present tax rate of 60 cents the county ad valorem tax revenue for next year will drop from some $10.5 million to about $10 million.

Second, after incorporating all the revenue estimates, the pay increases and other line item adjustments, (including $400,000 in estimated costs associated with the murder trial) proposed by the elected officials and department heads, our first run printout of the 2014 budget showed a general fund deficit of $475,000, and that was with the assumption that we would have the same ad valorem tax revenues as last year.

The principal decisions that we made in the commissioners court workshops that we conducted to eliminate the shortfall and balance the general fund budget proposal were to reduce the county workforce by the number of people necessary in order to reduce payroll costs by about $200,000, to eliminate all the proposed pay increases for 2014 which totaled some $134,000 including benefits impact and to increase the county ad valorem tax rate enough to generate some $150,000 in additional tax revenue.

Road and bridge accounts balance with the same ad valorem tax revenue being provided as last year at $880,724 per precinct. The debt service payment for 2014 has been reduced to $612,588 as a result of the renegotiated bond rate and we will apply $100,000 or more in excess funds in the bond account toward this payment, but we will need to generate about $500,000 in ad valorem tax revenue to make this payment.

The bottom line is that with the tax base reduction coupled with the general fund budget shortfall, the tax rate will need to be raised at least three cents to 63 cents. This will generate approximately the same tax dollars of $10.5 million as last year and will be the additional action necessary in order to balance the budget.

I recognize that all three of these actions will be met with significant opposition by those affected: those whose jobs are eliminated, those who have not received a pay increase for several years and those owners of taxable property in Milam County who will have to pay a higher tax next year.

But we are trying to use our best judgment in making these decisions. They were not easy decisions; I will try to explain our reasons for them and answer questions in the communication meetings which will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the following locations:

• Aug. 14—Community Center, 110 W. Main. Buckholts.

• Aug. 15—Community Center, FM 487, Davilla.

• Aug. 19— Mi lam County Courthouse, Cameron.

• Aug. 20— Community Center/ Fire Station, 102 W. Ave. E, Milano.

Aug. 22—One Stop Center, 313 N. Main, Rockdale.

• Aug. 26—Fire Dept. Building Meeting Room, Gause.

• Aug. 27- Chamber of Commerce 120 S. Main, Thorndale.

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