Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Several of you asked about my comment on the Capital Road Budget in my last blog. Why do I think it will not happen? It all boils down to money. It just is not there, and the Chief Budget Officer of the county should know this.
If you were a County Commissioner would you commit 7% of a budget that already is insufficient to do what needs to be done? Our Commissioners do an excellent job with what they have to work with. It is common knowledge that they simply do not, and we can not afford the money that would be needed to afford Judge Barkmeyer's dream. Would you commit one of your employees to the effort when you are already shorthanded?
Let's do some math. Figures are from the 2011 Milam County Budget. Each Commissioner's 2011 budget is approximately 1,277,611 dollars. Seven percent of that is 89,432 dollars, times four precincts equals approximately 357,731 dollars.
Paving costs for a mile of road vary depending on width of the road soil type the road is on and other factors. However, one figure quoted time and time again is 25,000 dollars per mile of road 18 feet wide. The overall cost is dependent on many factors and is arguable. However, using this basic figure you can see that you really can't get much done with 357,731 dollars.
Don't forget the maintenance of a paved road. Once over with a blade or a load of gravel will not do the job. The idea that paved roads last forever simply is not true.
Another question to consider would be how would the loss of 7% of the budget and 1 or more experienced workers per precinct effect a Commissioner's ability to maintain the current work level?
The reality is that we live in a rural county in Texas. We choose to live here for various reasons. My choice was made in 1969 when the roads were in much poorer condition. Along with gravel roads and flat tires I choose to live among copper heads, coral snakes, scorpions, wasps, black widows, mesquite thorns, and a number of other not so pleasant realities of a country life. It is what it is.
I had to have four flats fixed in the last ten days, and have ruined brand new tires on more than one occasion. Just a fact of country living. Would I trade it for the urban life? Not a chance.
I for one do not want my road paved. Quite happy with just the way it is. If Judge Barkemeyer wants to pacify those that want paved roads why not put it to a county vote?
There is a road and bridge ad valorm tax that is available to counties that would be dedicated strictly to roads and bridges. In the past the conservative leadership of Milam County has opted not to burden the landowners with increased taxes to please a few newcomers.
Times do change however, and it might be time to put the question to a vote. Instead of taking from my Commissioner and thwarting his ability to do his job why not have a countywide referendum and let the voters decide just how important Judge Barkemeyer's idea is.
Can someone, anyone make any sense of what is going on with the county budget? Better yet can anyone tell me what Judge Barkemeyer is up to? Really seems as though he is lost or maybe just truly clueless. His reports simply do not add up.
Take for instance the month of January report the county was 1.5 million in the hole. Then 60 days later the elected officials are doing a great job and we are not 1.5 million in the red. Now here in July he is quoted in the local media discussing the current budget woes again.
He also mentions the problems with next year's budget in his weekly article. However, Judge Barkemeyer, from experience I can assure you that the "problems" with next year's budget will always be there. At least that was the fact for the 12 years I was in office it's just the nature of the beast. And you ought to start out with zero reserve. That really makes things interesting.
So where do we really stand? According to the official Milam County monthly budget analysis for June it looks like the county is in pretty good shape to wind up under budget for 2011 budget year.
Through June, or halfway through the year 47% of the budgeted expense amount has been expended. Common sense will of course tell you that half way through the year if we were at 50% we would be right on target. However, as the Judge has said in the past the elected officials are doing a good job, and we in fact at this rate are actually going to come in 6% under budget.
Income wise the county has collected 75% of the projected income. There are a number of income sources that will not hit the books till later this year. Sales tax is projected to bring in 850,000 dollars for 2011. Through June county records show that over 491,000 dollars in sales tax has been collected. If the collection rates hold steady the county will collect over 982,000 in sales tax. That is 132,000 more income than projected. This along with other income that is currently uncollected will get the county close to projected income figures.
County budgeting is difficult and hard for many individuals to understand. Because of the statutory restrictions on counties and the fact they are required by law to set what they will spend 5 months in advance it is difficult to hit the bull's eye on every line item. That too must be considered when discussing the health of the county budget.
Again, I am not sure what the Judge is attempting to communicate to the taxpayers, and I am not too sure he knows what he is trying to communicate. But discussing budget woes one minute and the next talking about committing funds to security cameras on courthouse doors, economic development and a capital road crew, that by the way will never happen, just does not make good common conservative sense to me.
When December 31 arrives be sure to thank your local elected official for getting through the year within their budgets. It will be them and their common conservative sense that made it happen.