Split vote approves county tax increase

Murder trial, job cuts features of Milam budget

On a 3-2 vote Monday, the Milam County Commissioners Court approved a 3-cent raise in the county tax rate.

For more than a month, commissioners had been discussing a budget that included an increase from 60 to 63 cents and cuts in some county offices.

County Judge Dave Barkemeyer joined Precinct 1 Commissioner Chuck “Tank” Balch and Precinct 2 Commissioner Kenneth Hollas in voting for the budget. All are from Cameron.

Precinct 3 Commissioner John Fisher of Rockdale and Precinct 4 Commissioner Jeff Muegge of Thorndale voted against.

TRIAL—The most unique factor in the 2013-14 budget is the upcoming capital murder trial of Brandon Charles Cotton, accused of the April, 2011, shotgun slaying of San Gabriel area resident Sandra Phillips.

And that could be “ trials” instead of trial.

Reserves in the budget are intended to cover not only the trial but an automatic appeal which would be triggered by a guilty verdict.

A second murder trial in connection with the killing of Mrs. Phillips, looms in the future.

NO VOTE— Muegge said his “no” vote was based on an appeals process line item in the budget, saying he would have preferred the $350,000 targeted to cover those costs be used in other areas.

Sheriff David Greene made an appeal for pay raises in his department, noting the market forces are pushing sheriff’s employees toward higher paying jobs in other counties.

“I’ve had the Jail Commission call and try to hire two or three of my employees,” he said. “Some of my deputies have come to me in the last few months and say they want to work a second job.”

Greene said sheriff’s department employees haven’t had a pay increase in four years.

He recommended using money earmarked for trial appeals to fund those pay increases.

CUTS–The budget includes position cuts in the offices of the county clerk, district clerk, tax collector’s office, all in Cameron, and the Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace office in Rockdale.

Proposed pay increases for 2014wereeliminated,aswere some benefits.

Barkemeyer said the 3- cent tax increase is expected to generate $10.5 million in revenue, the same as last year due to a decrease in the taxable values.

Taxable values in Milam County dropped 4.6-percent during the past year with values at Luminant Sandow 5 power plant declining $108,662,335.

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2013-09-12 digital edition

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