Conroe, April 16 – After Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack and Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark insisted that the “FY 2018 Budget Packet” given to County departments to prepare their budgets for the upcoming fiscal year include direction for spending reductions two weeks earlier, the County Commissioners Court approved an FY 2018 Budget Packet that includes a “request” that County departments prepare their 2018 Fiscal Year budget request with a 5% reduction from the 2017 adopted budget and to assist in ways to provide “more resources to be dedicated to licensed peace officers.” Although the entire community should appreciate Noack’s and Clark’s contribution and the general mention of the spending philosophy, which the private Citizens Budget Committee and many other private citizens have espoused, the Budget Packet actually provides little guidance to the departments and does not go far enough.
The Philosophy of Government Spending Reductions
When Texas Republican United States Senator Phil Gramm announced his candidacy for President in College Station on February 24, 1995, he noted:
“”I’m running for president because I believe that if we don’t change the policy of our government, if we don’t change it soon, if we don’t change it dramatically, in 20 years we’re not going to be living in the same country that we grew up in. In 1950, the average American family with two little children sent one out of every 50 dollars it earned to Washington DC. Today that family is sending one out of every four dollars it earns to Washington DC. And if nothing changes soon, it’s going to be one in three.”
According to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, the average American family pays 21% of its income to the federal government in taxes, while the United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, agrees with that statistic and estimates that the average family pays slightly over 7% of its income to state government taxes and over 7% of its income to local government taxes. That means the average family’s disposable income is less than 65% of people’s total paychecks.
The Montgomery County government’s budget has grown 428% since 2000, while population growth has been 84% during that same time period. In the current Fiscal Year 2017, the County government is spending $377,354,857, of which approximately $155.6 million, or 41.2% is for law enforcement.
County Judge Craig Doyal has made clear that he seeks more County government spending and opposes efforts to cut spending, to reduce the property tax burden on citizens. Doyal has contended that government spending should grow at the rate of inflation plus population growth. In 2010, 93% of Republican voters in Montgomery County approved a nonbonding referendum calling for inflation and population growth to serve as the ceiling for County government spending growth. By that measure alone, Doyal’s County government spending has grown, only since 2010, by $54 million more than it should have under such targeting spending ceilings.
Doyal, Auditor Martin, and the County Commissioners Court are completely out of control. The Budget Packet does nothing to restrain such growth. Hidden within the packet is a “Budget Policy” which Doyal and County Auditor Phyllis Martin have proposed. Nothing in the proposed Budget Policy calls for reduced County government spending. To the contrary, the policy contains multiple meaningless euphemisms that express no desire whatsoever regarding the fiscal direction of Montgomery County. The policy euphemistically attempts to defend the swollen salaries at the top of the County government.
Efforts to Reduce Spending
Noack and Clark have called for 5% across-the-board spending cuts in the next Fiscal Year’s budget. That would amount of $18.87 million of cuts. The Citizens Budget Committee has called for $100 million of spending cuts in non-law enforcement departments with an increase primarily in law enforcement departments of $40 million, for a net $60 million reduction. The Citizens Budget Committee cuts amount to just under 16% in reductions.
Nowhere in the Budget Packet is there any discussion of “zero-based budgeting.” Nowhere in the Budget Packet is there any discussion of line-by-line analysis. County Department heads and their employees basically have no guidance whatsoever other than Doyal’s policy that he wants to continue spending more tax dollars.