Thursday, March 16, 2017


I attended the Commissioners Court meeting Monday morning and wish more folks would attend and see county government in action.  Two primary items on the agenda of public interest were the 2% raise for all county officials and employees and a salary adjustment for employees of the Sheriff’s Office.

Since last year the Judge has been predicting dire financial circumstances for the county.  However, his explanation Monday morning showed a much brighter outlook for 2017.  Bottom line is that the county has over 970,000 dollars in reserve.  As the Judge stated the “County is solvent.”  If you got 970,000 dollars in reserve you are not broke.

The 2% raise was a little sticker situation.  A letter was presented in court from attorneys that represent Milam County that went into great detail about the issues involved with the raise.  The conclusion is stated below.

“Based on the information provided, the Milam County elected officials should be paid the salary contained in the notices that include the 2% raise, to be paid from the beginning of the 2017-2018 fiscal year.  The county may be liable for not paying the county auditor for her increased salary as set by the district judges, as she is not required to avail herself of the grievance procedure before filing suit in a court of law based on a contest of her salary.  The commissioners court has the discretion to determine whether to give raises to the remaining county employees as well as, continuing the one-time salary increase for the County jailers and dispatchers.”

In plain terms the elected officials were stuck with their 2%, but had discretion as whether to give all employees a raise or not.  You need to also be aware of the fact that the money for the raises is already in the budget.  The total budget did not increase due to the 2%.  That being said I applaud the commissioners (those that voted for it) for giving the employees a raise.  Would have been bad had the officials gotten a raise and their employees got nothing.  Especially since the money is already in the budget.

Let’s put 2% into perspective here.  Say average county salary is 50,000 dollars, and it is not, but for demonstration purposes I will use that figure.  Based on a figure of 2% that comes out to 1,000 dollars per year. That is a raise of $83.33 per month, or $41.67 per paycheck.  For some employees that could be just enough to put them into another tax bracket and they actually take home less pay per pay period.

On the raise for the Sheriff’s employees it should be understood that all money for that raise is coming out of the Sheriff’s budget.  The vote on that was unanimous.  The fact is to keep good people you have to pay them a living wage.  If you think the jailers make too much get the Sheriff to let you shadow one of his jailers for one shift.  Guarantee you will change your mind.

Last but not least I was somewhat disgusted by one of the public participants that openly threatened the court if they voted to give the raises.  If you do not like what elected officials do you vote them out.  That goes without saying.  To get up there and publicly threaten them shows a real lack of character in my opinion.  Then again maybe the threats were what made two members of the court vote against their employees

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


I started not to write this post but sometimes you have to respond to totally incorrect information.  A local citizen, referred to by many as the “Village Idiot”, recently presented the court with a letter during public participation.  He then later sent a letter to the editor to local papers that was basically a duplicate of his request to the court.

In his comments he refers to purchases made by a Commissioner involving two tractors one front end loader and two shredders.  He also indicates, “Purchases need to go through a bid process.”  The tone of his letter indicates he believes the bid process was not followed.

However, he does not let you know that a BuyBoard created by legislation allows members to purchase equipment through the BuyBoard.  He also likes to throw around the terms compliance and transparency.  The following is a direct quote from the BuyBoard web page. 

“Compliance and transparency
Contracts and vendors awarded through BuyBoard have been competitively procured, so members automatically have compliance with Texas local and state procurement requirements and a documented audit trail. Transparency in the procurement process is treated with a high degree of focus and is of paramount importance. All vendors are treated on equal terms and are on the same plane of competition.” 

Another point made on the BuyBoard web page is as follows,                             

"Energy and cost savings                                                Because the competitive procurement process has been completed, members save time and resources that would have been spent on preparing and conducting a formal RFP. Besides reducing administrative costs, members reap savings through competitive pricing—plus, we offer member rebates!” 

Point is these purchases were made through the BuyBoard and hence were in full compliance with the letter of the law.

Another statement he makes is, “The former County Judge attended Court and told me the action was not in accordance with the Milam County policy and Local Government Code…”  Again, his statement is incorrect.  I did say the bids for road and bridge materials should have been opened in court, but never referred to or mentioned Milam County Policy or the Local Government Code.  I was not even aware of Judge Barkemeyer’s undated notes concerning a purchase policy.

In closing he makes the statement, “I have zero tolerance for acts of fraud, waste, or abuse in Milam County Government.”  Yet he fraudulently accuses the Court of waste and abuse.  Perhaps he should study the facts before jumping to conclusions.

Monday, January 16, 2017


I made the last two Commissioner Court meetings and looks as though we will survive; at least for now anyway.  Dire predictions of having to borrow up to 800,000 dollars did not come to pass.  In the end 59,000 was needed to be spent from this year’s funds to balance the 2016 budget.

Last summer there was a great deal of anguish over the possibility that we might have to sell tax anticipation notes to make it through the year.  Uncertainty over the direction of the Luminant law suit had the court concerned about revenue for 2016. 

I made a presentation to the court asking them to consider expending some of next year's funds instead of borrowing.  From the information I had I did not believe the county was going to be in that bad of shape considering there was over 800,000 dollars in reserve.  While I understand why the Judge did not want to spend the reserve what is it for if not for situations just like this?  Congratulations to the court for having built that reserve.

Issuing tax anticipation notes is the only way a county can borrow money if they are not going to repay that money within a year.  I have never met anyone who suggests that you can borrow your way out of debt. 

Granted we are starting 2017 right at 59,000 dollars short, but at least we do not have a loan with interest to be repaying.  There are also certain fees and costs that go along with the issuance of tax anticipation notes and we don’t have those to repay either.

According to Judge Barkemeyer there is light at the end of the tunnel.  He stated in court last Monday that a settlement was near that will cover three years.  He did not mention the terms of the settlement as to what percentage of the appraised value Luminant was going to agree to, but at least we will know what is coming. 

My past experience with ALCOA was similar in that every year they would dispute their values, threaten law suits, but in the end we never made it to court a settlement was always agreed to.   

Whatever amount the settlement is I do hope the agreement includes reimbursement of the taxing entities legal fees.  Luminant will get a big tax write off for their fees Milam County taxpayers will not.  Luminant started it.   They could have negotiated a deal without going to court.  Only seems fair to me that they pay our legal fees.