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?