A lot has been going on in Milam County since my last blog, and I've been pretty busy myself. Been working on this blog since the first of September, but have had to do one of those write it, set it aside, read it then rewrite it several times. I want to communicate the real issues here. It is what it is.
I read with interest The Judge's September 3rd column on communication, or "Why Communicate."
Webster defines communication as; "the act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviors to express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc., to someone else." The key part here is, "…to express your ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc., to someone else."
Good communication is a very difficult process to achieve. Courses are taught everyday on effective communication skills. Our own biases naturally enter into any communication we attempt, or a spin is placed on the communicated information to send the messages we want to be sent. Take for instance FOX news or one of the liberal news media sources. Give them the same story or information and you will see it communicated in two totally diametric styles.
Communication as many of you already know is a skill that we all use to get our point across. Take sales of any product. The advertisements for that product communicate the wonderful benefits that particular product will give you if you pay the price plus shipping. Guaranteed or your money back, but wait if you order now…you all know the rest of the story. This is an excellent example of communication being used to sway your opinion and get your money. Unfortunately we see a lot of the same thing in all levels of government.
Not picking on Dave here, but he states in his column, "The fact is these hearings and notices are not even required if the proposed rate is not increased above the effective tax rate…" However, according to the truth in taxation publication from the State Comptroller's Office, "After publishing the required notice, taxing units must hold two public hearings."
Now I am sure Dave meant he did not have to hold the Community Communication Meetings, but the reality is the county is required to hold two public meetings regardless of which way the tax rate goes.
My last blog predicted an increase in taxes for the taxpayers of Milam County, and as you can see I was right. Judge Barkemeyer had several items on his personal agenda when running for the office. One of which was increasing the county reserve to one million dollars. Here is where the communication issue comes up.
Before finalizing the budget and during his community meetings he repeatedly painted a picture of county finances that would indicate a need for a tax increase to keep the county from going broke. He notes in his communications several times the use of the 600,000 dollar reserve to balance the budget. As a matter of fact if you look at the 2015 budget you will see there is no reserve on the expense side.
However, if you look at media articles and listen to the Judge's monthly financial updates the county will wind up 2014 with over an 800,000 dollar reserve. So if this is true why raise taxes on the people when you have the money to balance the budget? If you will study the budget you will see the reserve tucked away in areas with the primary goal of communicating a need for a tax increase.
It is bad enough when our state and national leaders tell us one thing when they mean another, but for it to happen at the local level kind of makes you wonder just what is our country coming to. The Judge is right, why communicate if you are not going to give us the whole picture? Maybe all our elected officials need a course in effective communication.