Let’s keep our eye on the spending ball

Let’s keep our eye on the spending ball

Image: The Eye by Tony Tasset, in downtown Dallas, 1607 Main Street.

Conroe, November 5 – With elections and campaigning, Grand Jury investigations of Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, pending criminal proceedings in the Beaumont Court of Appeals against Doyal, Riley, and corrupt local political boss Marc Davenport, it’s easy to lose sight of the real goal: making the Montgomery County government a lot smaller.

The Montgomery County GOP Executive Committee voted decisively on February 27, 2017, to endorse a proposal to cut significantly County spending overall, to adopt a 20% homestead exemption for County property taxes, and to increase funding for the law enforcement departments within the County government. Republican Precinct 50 Chairman Reagan Reed, elected to the Republican Executive Committee in the 2016 Republican Primary Election, authored and proposed the resolution at the meeting Tuesday night. The resolution passed by a decisive margin of 21 to 10.

The Montgomery County Commissioners Court largely ignored the GOP Executive Committee resolution, except that, after intense pressure from conservative activist Kelli Cook of Montgomery, they finally adopted a 20% homestead exemption.

The Citizens Budget Committee, which spent thousands of hours going line-by-line through the entire County Budget as well as backup documents for job duties of the bloated personnel in most departments, has recommended that the County reduce overall spending by $100 million over four budget years, but increase law enforcement and a permanent road and bridge fund by $40 million, for net savings of $60 million.

Instead, the Montgomery County Commissioners Court ignored the Citizens Budget Committee report, engaged in substantial gamesmanship to exclude citizens from the budget process (including statutorily-required public hearings), and passed a government expenditure budget of $295 million, the largest such budget in the history of Montgomery County.

Doyal, who will say anything in the hope people will believe him, has seriously argued verbally and in writing that “fiscal conservatism” means growth in government spending. Riley seems completely ignorant with respect to County Budget matters, so he just follows Doyal. Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador loves to spend “other people’s money” so he votes in favor of every spending proposal. Meanwhile, Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack has started to vote with Doyal and Meador on every spending proposal. Until about two months ago, Noack voted against mid-year salary increases for Departments that failed to include those increases in their proposed budgets. He’s voted for two such increases for Meador’s Commissioner Department just recently. Only Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark voted against the budget after citizens identified major problems with it when Doyal finally allowed them to speak on September 5.

Meanwhile, the citizen clamor for reduced spending is increasing dramatically. They’re sick of all of the lying from our local government about spending reductions when, in fact, the spending has grown massively, as County Clerk Mark Turnbull illustrated in a chart during the July budget hearings.

A slide which County Clerk Mark Turnbull presented the July budget hearings showing how the growth of the Montgomery County Budget has exceeded the rate of inflation plus population growth.

Already, Precinct 2 County Commissioner candidates Brian Dawson and Gregory Parker and Precinct 4 County Commissioner candidate Bob Bagley are discussing the need for spending reductions. It’s long past overdue for County Judge candidate Mark Keough to make some specific proposals to reduce spending. Precinct 4 County Commissioner candidate James Metts is part of the problem in the County government with his vicious foisting of the NetData/Graves Humphries collection system on the JP courts which is costing the taxpayers millions of dollars in uncollected fees and fines. Metts’ connection to Davenport should give any voter pause.

What are some of the major spending issues?

Elected Official Salaries. Because the Commissioners Court has basked in “easy money” from property taxpayers, Montgomery County’s elected officials as a group have the highest salaries in the State of Texas. Just 20 years ago, government salaries were substantially less than the private sector, based upon the idea that working for the government was noble public service and a sacrifice. Today, it’s no sacrifice. It’s drawing from the horn a plenty of tax dollars without oversight from anyone, since the citizens have slept for so long in Montgomery County mesmerized by County GOP Chairman Wally Wilkerson who has repeatedly assured us that “Republicans are fiscally conservative.” Clearly, as to the elected officials in Montgomery County, it’s time for at least a 10 year salary freeze if not downright reductions in their bloated salaries.

Obviously, high salaries have not enticed high quality to seek these offices in Montgomery County.

Salaries of Non-Elected Officials. Management salaries in the Montgomery County government are among the highest in Texas and greatly ahead of the private sector for comparable positions. The Commissioners Court should freeze or reduce those salaries as well. Other County employees’ salaries are not off-the-charts in comparison to other governments. The problem Montgomery County’s government faces, however, is the enormous duplication of functions and overhiring of personnel for Departmental “fiefdoms.” The way to solve the salary problem is through attrition.

Roads. Most people agreement that the two functions the County government should definitely provide are law enforcement and roads. The management of road expenditures is horrible. The County Engineer, Mark Mooney, doesn’t do his job, so the Commissioners Court has hired intense political contributor John Holzwarth as the overseer of road projects. It’s a joke.

While the engineering practices act prohibits competitive bidding for engineering work (government monopolizing), no one inside the County government really takes a hard look at proposed engineering expenditures. That’s the reason that the 3.6 mile Tx-249 Decimation of Hope Highway will cost more than $73 million. Our County Judge, Doyal, does nothing to oversee engineering contracts. His busy golf schedule and legal defense fund raising preclude any such oversight.

Furthermore, it’s time for government to insist that vendors provide steep discounts in their public contracts, a practice in which governmental units engaged until recently.

Information Technology. Let’s face the reality. The director of Information Technology in Montgomery County is Davenport. More on that later. If nominal IT Director Marshall Shirley dares to cross Davenport, one of Davenport’s henchman, Metts, sues Shirley while acting as the plaintiff, plaintiff’s lawyer, and judge all in the same case. Please see “Picture of Corruption: Judge Metts Files Lawsuit Where Montgomery County Sues Montgomery County, Metts Acts as Plaintiff, Plaintiff’s Attorney, Judge All in Same Case (The Davenports, Part 16),” The Golden Hammer, July 7, 2017.

Inefficiencies. Montgomery County needs to have a “budget manager” preferably that is actually a committee of citizens who are not receiving compensation for their services. With an objective eye, they should wander from department to department and report their findings to the Commissioners Court for genuine action.

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