Sunday, April 28, 2013


I have been attending the Milam County Commissioners Court meetings on a fairly regular basis since the first of the year.  Since January Judge Barkemeyer has been pointing out the dire financial situation of the county.  10.6 million in expenses and 10.2 in income budgeted for the year.

The Judge continues to point out various departments that are falling short of his projections.  He also brings the costs of the capital murder trial up on a regular basis.   The trial costs are something that no one can accurately predict at this point in time.  He does wind up most of his comments with the expression of his hope that all will be well when the year ends.  Great to be optimistic, but optimism does not pay the bills, or for a capital murder trial.

The murder trial is something that could continue to affect the county for years to come.  Automatic appeals will be paid for by the county.  Gray County spent almost $750,000, about 10% of their budget to defend a Missouri man who shot and killed three people.  The cost increases when you consider the county's cost of prosecuting the defendant.  In a March 1992 article The Dallas Morning News reported each death penalty case in Texas costs taxpayers about $2.3 million.

Costs of any trial depends on the complexity of the case, how long the trial lasts, the number of appeals and writs that may be filed.  Point is that there is no accurate way to predict the final costs of a capital murder trial.  It could be anywhere from $100,000 or less to a lot more.  Bottom line is that whatever it costs Milam County will foot the bill.

We are still early in the year and some things look good others not so good.  Right now sales tax revenue is ahead of predictions, but fines fees and commissions are somewhat behind in several areas.  Judge Barkemeyer has made it a point to show the departments that are behind and seems to indicate that the elected officials are in some way to blame for not meeting his predictions of revenue.

Justice of the Peace Andy Issacs has been pointed out several times as being behind in collections.  Fact is that Judge Issacs only sentences he does not collect.  The Judge has no real control over who pays or when they pay.  It has also been noted that the revenue from housing out prisoners in our jail is falling behind Judge Barkemeyer's predictions.  I wonder how much input the Sheriff or Judge Issacs had on the Judge's revenue estimates.

Now what's confusing me?  Well, there will be a special meeting of the Commissioners Court on Tuesday April 30 at 10:00 am and one item on the agenda is the issuance of bonds for funding roads in Milam County.  If the county is in such dire financial straits, and has no way of accurately predicting the costs of a capital murder trial why would we want to put the county even further in debt by issuing bonds?

Ted Cruz, our new US Senator recently said that sometimes raising taxes may be the more conservative thing to do.  Judge Barkemeyer's proposal for road bonds would include interest on the money borrowed over many years.  On the other hand, the Texas Constitution provides for the voter approval of a special road and bridge tax not to exceed 15 cents per hundred.   
Why not propose a certain tax rate dedicated to this fund that would allow us to pay as we go without interest?  Over the long term saving lots of money, thus more conservative

No comments:

Post a Comment