The Woodlands, December 2 – The Fiscal Year 2018 governmental expenditure budget is the highest in the history of Montgomery County. Despite the freespending ways of Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, and Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador, the citizens did not suffer a tax rate increase in the annual fiscal budget that begin on October 1, 2017, thanks to the efforts of one man: Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack.
Doyal, Riley, and Meador and their “establishment” supporters don’t understand the genuine anguish that regular citizens suffer when they receive their County tax bill in late October or November each year. Often the tax bill exceeds families’ annual mortgage payments. The County government and other taxing entities are literally taxing people, especially those on fixed incomes, out of their homes. The argument that the County government is only a portion of the tax bill just doesn’t work. The County Commissioners Court provides the leadership to other taxing entities. Furthermore, the Commissioners Court clearly controls the Montgomery Central Appraisal District Board of Directors, which sets the MCAD reappraisal policies that jack up property tax valuations. Who serves on the MCAD Board right now? Riley, Meador, and former County Commissioner Ed Chance.
Despite the spending reductions in ten County departments, overall governmental expenditures of the Montgomery County government actually increased to the highest level in history.
Doyal is a major proponent and booster of tax dollar spending. Doyal has made clear that he believes government should become involved in centralized planning and economic development rather than allow private businesses and free markets to lead in those areas. As a result, despite a significant reduction in debt service for the coming fiscal year, Doyal, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack, and Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador voted for a budget which will ultimately cost taxpayers more money, since the Montgomery Central Appraisal District (under Riley’s and Meador’s direction) has inflicted gigantic property tax appraisal increases on Montgomery County citizens during the past three years.
Even with the 20% homestead exemption, which the Commissioners Court reluctantly passed after intense leadership and lobbying by local political activist Kelli Cook, most Montgomery County taxpayers will pay far more in property taxes during the coming year than they did three years ago.
After the Citizens Budget Committee began its work with the goal of reducing County government spending by $100 million over four years with an increase in law enforcement spending and a capital projects budget for roads and bridges in the range of $40 million, for a net spending reduction of $60 million per year, Noack and Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark proposed a 5% across-the-board spending reduction for all county departments on February 7 and 8, 2017.
Clark’s and Noack’s call for spending reductions contradicted the suggestions of County Judge Doyal who wanted increased spending in the Montgomery County budget at the rate of the growth in population and inflation. Doyal has made clear that be believes “fiscal conservatism” is a term to describe spending and tax increases.
Clark and Noack met with several County department heads during the budget period to discuss methods by which they might reduce their budgets. Upon the suggestion of the Citizens Budget Committee, Clark and Noack clarified that their call for across-the-board spending cuts only applied to non-law-enforcement departments.
The Golden Hammer confirmed that every single County Department that proposed 5% spending reductions had conducted meetings directly with Noack and his Precinct 3 staff before submitting their budget proposal to the Montgomery County Auditor.
Noack and Clark encountered significant resistance during the budget process from Doyal.
As Noack told The Golden Hammer during the budget process on May 4, 2017, “Doyal is telling Department heads they don’t need to cut their budgets and he’ll take the money out of road and bridge funds from the Commissioners Precincts, if necessary. Doyal and some of my Commissioners Court colleagues have family members in the County government who they’re trying to protect, so they won’t cut budgets.”
Noack: “Doyal is telling Department heads they don’t need to cut their budgets and he’ll take the money out of road and bridge funds from the Commissioners Precincts, if necessary. Doyal and some of my Commissioners Court colleagues have family members in the County government who they’re trying to protect, so they won’t cut budgets.”
Since Doyal worked very hard behind-the-scenes to undercut Noack’s attempts to reduce County government spending with Department-by-Department budget reductions, Noack had to show heroic leadership with another methodology. He searched vociferously for ways to reduce the County’s massive debt service, which exceeded $55 million during Fiscal Year 2017.
Noack was reviewing a report detailing the County’s bond exposure and payment schedules. He looked for opportunities to take advantage of the lower interest rates the market offered during early 2017. Having spent 18 years in the financial services industry working with bonds and securities he was familiar with restructuring debt to save money.
Noack visited with the County’s financial advisor to see if they could put together a plan to defease some of the bond debt after noticing the county had excess funds in their debt service fund. The financial advisor wanted simply to refinance the debt, but Noack wanted to pay it off and looked into options to eliminate any potential penalties by placing the proceeds into an escrow account to use an escrow agent to pay the debt and avoid a prepayment penalty. Overall this move saved the County between 8 and 9 million dollars off of the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget. With the retirement of other debt, Noack successfully reduced the County’s annual debt service by approximately $21.8 million from Fiscal Year 2017 to Fiscal Year 2018.
Noack’s debt reduction work saved the taxpayers from the tax rate increase about which Doyal and Meador dreamed. There was no need for it.
Noack saved the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget and helped to maintain the hopes of thousands of taxpayers alive that the County government would actually reduce spending some day.