Monday, June 18, 2012


Perception is a very important point of an individual's decision making.  You take a look at a glass of water that is half full, or is it half empty?  It all depends on your perception.  Political pundits use their spin on the facts to influence our perception.

Take for instance the recent articles in the local newspapers on the Liminant settlement.  As most of Milam County knows by now the Liminant law suit against the Milam County Appraisal Office is close to a settlement.  A settlement that is being hailed by some as a great deal.  However, the facts show that while some progress was made the glass is still going to be half empty with the proposed settlement.

Certainly the 410 million dollar agreed valuation is better than Luminant's proposed value.  The proposed settlement is far above the value they initially proposed in their original filings, but it falls short of the value that was included in Milam County's 2012 budget.

According to Pat Morrow, our Chief Appraiser, the value that was included in the certified appraised values for Liminant was 544 million.  Liminant's original proposed value was below 300 million.  Bottom line is Milam County's budget is going to be short 134 million in appraised values.

The Rockdale Reporter front page article in the June 14th edition states, "The settlement should mean an additional $360,000 in revenue for the county, according to County Judge Dave Barkemeyer."  The article goes on to quote the Judge, "I look at that $360,000 as icing on the cake…It's money we didn't have in December."  What he does not say is that it was money that was counted in the budget in December.  So, the truth is that it is not additional revenue.

In my blog of October 7, 2011, titled Kudos to the Rockdale School Board, I point out their leadership in taking into consideration the Luminant law suit potential effect on their budget.  They took action to offset possible loses, unfortunately Milam County did not.

The proposed settlement recoups some, but by no means all of the revenue accounted for in Milam County's 2012 adopted operating budget.  While the 360,000 will help county officials have a long way to go to get in under budget to make up the difference.  I have faith that they can and will do it.

Judge Barlemeyer has been very big on open and transparent government, and he has done a good job at laying most things out on the table.  It's unfortunate that the truth is edited to take out the bad news and report only the good news on such a significant part of county government.  Reality will come to the surface as we near the end of the year and see the level of the glass is short on being where it should be regardless of your perception.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.  That is a saying from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, and one that many of us have heard from our parents or grandparents.  Simply means, what matters is what something is, not what it is called.

The recently approved Milam County Tax Phase In Program is simply another tax abatement program.  The same thing that has been around for years but has simply been called a tax abatement.  It has been sort of prettied up, but still the same thing.  The same factors have always been considered in the granting of any previous tax abatement, or by another name tax exemption.

In 2001 the property tax code was revised to prohibit school districts from granting tax abatements.  School taxes are the highest local property taxes that are forced upon the taxpayers.  The wisdom of the legislature in passing this revision was that it was costing the districts tax money.  Logically it would follow that it also costs the county and city tax money.  Tax money that is lost to an exemption has to be made up somewhere.

Currently there are approximately 40 exemptions available for various classes of property.  Homestead, Ag use, over sixty-five and disabled veteran to name some of the more familiar ones.  While many of these exemptions are for a good cause and considered great by those that get them the truth is that someone else pays for them.

Government business costs like any other costs will continue to rise.  The increases in the costs of operation are just a fact of life.  Over time costs will continue to increase.  As growth occurs costs will increase and not much anyone can do about it.

Say a Lowe's or Home Depot was going to build in Milam County.  Would it be fair to local businesses such as Anderle Lumber or Rockdale Lumber to give the new kid in town a big tax break?  Ask the folks at Anderle and Rockdale Lumber how big of a tax break they get from the city or county.   

Taxes are a cost of doing business and basically you are looking at the local taxpayers to take up the slack and this in turn cuts into their profit margin.

I understand the concept is to lure businesses here by giving them the tax break, but what about a tax break for those that fund the infrastructure that supports the local economy.  Did Wal-Mart get a big tax abatement when they moved into Rockdale?

The real issue here is that Luminant will settle for 410 million value which will reduce this year's tax base for the county by over 160 million dollars.  A capital murder trial is underway that will cost more than budgeted, and last but not least next year's appraised values have dropped. 

This means less money for the county coming in than planned for this year and less next year.  So the plan is to give new businesses a tax break?  How about giving the current taxpayers a break?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


What a difference a little or maybe that should be a lot of rain will make. Wildflowers breaking into full bloom, tanks and ponds overflowing and green grass everywhere. Looks like it is going to be a great spring. Of course that is not taking into account that it is election time again.

It took some time but we finally have a date set for the primaries. Texas will have less impact on the selection of the presidential candidate thanks to those that handled redistricting. This year is also an excellent example of why redistricting should be conducted by a non-partisan committee. Great idea, but those in power do not want to lose the power.

What Austin did to the state and national elections also affected our local county elections. Not that the redistricting actually had any effect on precincts locally. We just got stuck with the delays because county offices are listed on the state and national ballot. No problems with city and school elections. Maybe it is time to consider that all local level offices should be run non-partisan. All could be held on the same day and same ballot.

Lots of choices locally this year and both parties have contested races. That is going to make it hard for some of us to decide which primary to vote in. This is another good argument for local elections being held non-partisan. For instance if you like one of the candidates for District Judge in the D primary you will have to sacrifice your vote for Sheriff. No D's are running for Sheriff.

Partisanship is applicable at the state and national level where you may never meet the candidate face to face. Sometimes you have to base your decision on what the party platform states. On the other hand local government has little to do with party platforms. There is another reason for local non-partisan elections.

The District Judge, Sheriff and for that matter all other local county government officials have a non-partisan job. They do not promote one idea or another they simply perform a constitutional defined job. Realistically the only time politics is involved in local government is come election time.

There is still a long time before we get to vote. With the amount of time we have there should be no problem in voters learning about the candidates. The platform for all county elected officials should be doing what is best in their job for Milam County. Take time to study the candidates. Look past the rhetoric you will be hearing in the coming weeks and make the choice you feel is best for Milam County. And most important of all be sure to cast your vote.

Friday, February 3, 2012


The race is on for the White House, Congress, state representatives and senators and of course local governmental offices as well. The various media sources have been loaded with reports of the presidential race, and to a lesser extent state and other national races. Where are the reports on local government races?

The signs are-up all over the county and the rumor mill is firing up. Hard to tell where these rumors originate. Some say the candidate's opponent starts them, or perhaps the supporters of a particular candidate or maybe it is just plan ignorance of the voting public.

The reality is we as citizens of Milam County have the opportunity to get to know our local candidates on a personal level. We can approach each and every one them, or call or email them and ask them the pointed questions. Something we can't do with the majority of state and national candidates.

Take time to get to know the issues and the candidates. Remember this?

" Some of you may not know about me and my friends. This is Congressman John Carter and like you I am concerned with the lack of jobs, excessive spending by the government and lack of infrastructure at the federal level state level and county level we need to get Milam County back to work. And to do that we need a new team, a conservative Republican team. I am proud to be on the same ticket….names candidates. This team is dedicated to creating jobs building roads spurring economic development and being held accountable by their neighbors. So go out and vote for this new conservative Republican team that will get Milam County back to work. They deserve the best county leadership in the state and this team will provide it."

That's the text from Senator Carter's political ad from the last general election. I did leave out the candidate's names, but that's it word for word.

Now the point I want to make is that he speaks about several issues that are nothing more than political rhetoric like we will hear until the election is over. I like Congressman Carter but would like to point out that the unemployment rate has not drastically changed in Milam County. There have not been miles and miles of county road paved, and the local county spending increased by $1,187,224.48. That is the increased revenue from taxes.

It is called political rhetoric. Congressman Carter was telling folks what they wanted to hear. The reality is that the county could have encouraged economic development by lowering taxes, but they did not. They can't do much for job creation and as a matter of fact actually cut some jobs. And remember your county elected officials are most likely not going to put Milam County back to work.

By now voters should have learned it is what elected officials do not what they say that counts. As we move into this election take time to look at the records of each and every candidate. Yeah they might be your friend, even your best friend, but not sure that is a reason to vote for them. Might be the best reason not to vote for them, cause you know them. Can they do the job?

Take time to review the record of those that have been in public service and look closely at what those who have not been office holders have done over the years. At the county level it really is not about Democrat or Republican it is who can best do the job, and who will best do the job for the citizens of Milam County.

Law enforcement is not Republican or Democrat, keeping books for the county is not Democrat or Republican and serving as a commissioner or a constable is not political. It is doing a job and keeping the best interest of the people of Milam County as their top priority.

Study the candidates well and make your decision based on not who is the best Republican or Democrat or Tea Party candidate chose the best person for the job and vote. Remember, county elected officials are not going to put Milam County back to work. We need county officials that are going to work for us.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Monday's January 9th County Commissioners Court meeting minutes had some comments from Judge Barkemeyer about a letter he received from some group on the prayer on the agenda. As a Christian I am pro prayer and prayed before each meeting for twelve years. Prayed a lot after the meetings too.

According to the letter from the organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State we can pray before court it just has to be done in the proper manner. They state, "… the practice is in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution."

Their letter continues in the next paragraph to state, "The U.S. Supreme Court has concluded that prayer in the opening of legislative sessions are constitutionally permissible if-but only if-they do not use language specific to one religion."

So we can pray we just can't say Jesus, Christ, Allah, Buddha, Lord or any other word that indicates one specific religion. The letter from this group cites many legal cases that have been decided in the courts to support their position.

They request that the court bring their prayer practice into constitutional compliance. They suggest that the prayer be replaced with a moment of silence, revise the prayer to allow only nonsectarian prayer or injecting religious diversity into the prayers so that prayer opportunity is not solely dominated by Christians.

They have their options and I have one that worked for Judge Blake, Judge Hashem and myself. While they refer to the constitution, and I am strong supporter of the constitution, I believe that there is an answer to their suggestions. Judge Hashem and myself as well always said the prayer before the opening of the court meeting.

Secondly, prayer was not listed as an agenda item. Listing prayer on the "official county business agenda" probably crosses the line of separation of religion and government. I would say it does as only county business should be listed on the agenda.

As a Christian I believe in prayer and can testify it has worked for me. On the other hand I am also a strong supporter of our constitution. It was written by men who followed those that came here for freedom of religion. My belief is that they wrote the Constitution to prevent the same thing from occurring in the Colonies that sent the first settlers to this continent.

Point here is that prayer probably does not belong on the agenda of any governmental meeting. However, if the prayer occurs before the meeting is called to order those that do not agree can step out of the room, or maybe go back to where they came from.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone. Sure hope everyone had a great holiday…that would be Christmas and New Year… season. Guess it is time for all of us get back to work and try to make this year better than 2011. In some ways it certainly could not be worse.

Looking back over the year many of you can remember the dire financial straits the county was in. In January I believe the Judge's comment was somewhere a million plus over budget. Well, the year is over and the facts are in.

While all the elected officials and department heads deserve credit for staying within budget it is something that they are used to doing. Not a new characteristic for Milam County's leaders. Been something that has been going on for many years, and you might also give some credit to the court that approved the 2011 budget.

According to Monday's Court minutes the county ended the year with a surplus of 400,000 dollars in the general fund and all the precincts wound up with sizeable reserves as well.

Another bright spot in the 2011 budget was the Sheriff's office. Sheriff Greene came in under budget in the jail operations by over 200,000 dollars, and in the law enforcement by over 100,000 dollars. Sheriff Greene's outstanding management of the department is the primary reason for this excellent performance.

I was unable to attend Monday's Court meeting, but I sure hope the year end synopsis was clearer in court than in the minutes. One interesting note to me was that figrues were stated for some offices that were represented as revenue, but half went to the state. Sounds to me like the revenue for the county should have been half of the amount represented in the minutes. Half is half, not whole.

As I have said many times before county budgeting is difficult at best. 2012 will be no different. The minutes pointed out that Judge Barkemeyer stressed the Liminant suit and capital murder trial as two concerns for 2012. I have to agree. It is just sad that the leadership was not there to plan for the Liminant suit as did the Rockdale ISD.

I guess the bottom line is that Milam County Government is not going to go away. However, it could get hammered hard during the upcoming year. What does that mean in the end? County taxpayers are the ones that will pay the bill. As an optimist I just have to pray that Judge Barkemeyer's logic will prove accurate, but at this point in time Ijust can't bring myself to bet on it.