Image: Beautiful Montgomery County, Texas, birthplace of the Texas Flag and the home to 556,000 or so really nice people.
Conroe, July 15 – The Montgomery County government’s spending growth is staggering in comparison to similar Texas counties. The Golden Hammer gathered data from four counties often compared to Montgomery County to observe whether Montgomery County has shown less or more fiscal restraint since 2010, the year when Republican Primary Election voters passed a referendum demanding that the County government limit its spending growth to the rate of population growth and inflation as an absolute ceiling.
Montgomery County’s explosive spending growth compared to comparable counties
The Montgomery County government has shown no fiscal restraint whatsoever. A comparison to Collin County (County Seat: McKinney), Denton County (County Seat: Denton), Fort Bend County (County Seat: Rosenberg), and Williamson County (County Seat: Georgetown) reveals striking differences between Montgomery County on the one hand and the others as a group. Montgomery County’s government spending pattern since 2010 has been abysmal.
“Montgomery County’s spending pattern since 2010 has been abysmal.”
Since Fiscal Year 2010, Montgomery County’s government spending has grown by 77.2%. In Fiscal Year 2010, Montgomery County’s Budget was $213.0 million. In the current year, Fiscal year 2017, Montgomery County’s Budget is $377.4 million. The growth in dollars of each of the five counties follows:
The population growth rates follow:
Clearly, population growth rates do not justify the explosion of Montgomery County spending growth. During the study period, 2010 to 2017, Montgomery County’s population has grown 22.0%, while County government spending grew 77.2%. Inflation isn’t the excuse either for Montgomery County’s nuclear spending growth. The United States Consumer Price Index (CPI), which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles and publishes, follows for the relevant periods:
2013 1.5 %
2017 2.1% (extrapolated from 6 months of data).
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Republican voters of Montgomery County placed a ceiling on County government spending growth equal to the rate of population growth plus the rate of inflation. Adding those numbers together for the relevant period, spending in Montgomery County should not have exceeded a 33.9% growth between Fiscal Year 2010 and Fiscal Year 2017. Since the County’s spending budget was $213.0 million in Fiscal Year 2010, its spending budget should not have been more than $285.2 million in Fiscal Year 2017. Instead, Montgomery County’s Budget for FY 2017 is $377.4 million, or $92.2 million over what it should be. Interestingly, even the outlandish spender County Judge Craig Doyal has defined “fiscal conservative” as meaning someone who restricts the growth of government spending to population growth and inflation. Therefore, by his own definition, Craig Doyal is an extreme “fiscal liberal.” (The Golden Hammer respectfully believes that Doyal’s definition of “fiscal conservative” is in and of itself far too liberal.)
Interestingly, even the outlandish spender County Judge Craig Doyal has defined “fiscal conservative” as meaning someone who restricts the growth of government spending to population growth and inflation. Therefore, by his own definition, Craig Doyal is an extreme “fiscal liberal.”
Montgomery County’s population growth rate provides Doyal, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, and Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador no cover whatsoever for the outrageous growth in County government spending. It’s important to recall that, before he became County Judge on January 1, 2015, Doyal worked closely with Meador to ensure the growth of the County’s spending as the Precinct 2 County Commissioner with the help of his then-Operations Manager Charlie Riley.
Doyal has another excuse with which he has attempted to rationalize the spending explosion under his direction and tenure: the amount of unincorporated area in Montgomery County.
Analysis of Doyal’s excuse
Montgomery County’s population growth rate obviously is not an excuse. Does the amount of unincorporated area inside of Montgomery County rationalize the County’s explosion of government spending during the past seven years?
No, it does not.
Doyal’s argument is that 82% of Montgomery County’s population lives outside of cities or towns, so the County government has far more responsibility than other counties. The basis behind that argument is that a city such as Conroe or Willis takes responsibility for their roads, law enforcement, and infrastructure, while unincorporated areas of Montgomery County rely on the County government for those services. It’s a particularly significant point, if it were true, because the most heavily concentrated center of population in the entire County happens to be in The Woodlands, an area which remains unincorporated.
First, let’s look at the facts, i.e., the statistics, courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 official Census. Please note that the population numbers reflect the 2010 data, not the more recent population data shown above.
First, let’s note that there’s no particular reason that a larger unincorporated area population would lead to higher spending growth (as opposed to a higher base level of spending). In fact, Montgomery County didn’t have spending that was particularly out of sync with comparable counties in 2010. Since 2010, Montgomery County caught up and exceeded the other counties in this comparison in government expenditures of tax dollars.
Second, and importantly, one of the comparable counties is Collin County, which bears 63.3% of its population in unincorporated areas, and Collin County has the lowest spending growth rate of all, at 21.7% for the seven-year period!
Third, and arguably most important of all, one must analyze how The Woodlands Township (or subdivision) fits into the analysis. The Woodlands pays for almost all of its law enforcement from the Sheriff’s Office under a substantial contract requiring Township payments to the Montgomery County government each year. Additionally, as much as readers of The Golden Hammer may dislike the entity, The Woodlands does have The Woodlands Road Utility District #1, another governmental entity which built many of the roads inside of The Woodlands. Perhaps, most poignant of all, the developer of The Woodlands built the vast majority of the roads inside of The Woodlands and used higher quality road designs and materials than the typical Montgomery County road project. Therefore, the burden of the two largest County responsibilities, public safety and roads, is quite a bit less on the shoulders of the County government as a result of a full 91,485 people in the 2010 Census who lived in The Woodlands at that time.
As a result, the “Unincorporated Population” table above has two rows for Montgomery County, one including The Woodlands population and one excluding The Woodlands population. That analysis also reveals that the unincorporated population burden on the Montgomery County government is actually comparable to that of Collin County and it’s not too far off of Fort Bend County.
Clearly, the unincorporated population in Montgomery County does not provide the excuse for the massive County government spending growth.
For comparable size counties to Montgomery County, the percentage of unincorporated population bears no relationship to the growth rate of County government spending.
Additionally, it’s important to note that Collin County has approximately 125,000 more people living in unincorporated areas than does Montgomery County but that has little bearing on the growth rate of Collin County’s government spending.
The bottom line
There’s no rational basis for the Montgomery County government’s spending growth during the last seven years. The County government’s current budget is $92.2 million over what it should be. Doyal, Riley, and Meador have spun out of control.