Image: Montgomery County’s new Budget Office bureaucrat Amanda Carter shares the same plans as County Judge Craig Doyal and County Auditor Phyllis Martin to burn tax dollars as quickly as possible. Carter has continued the same anti-citizen gamesmanship the community witnessed during the 2017 budget process.
Conroe, April 9 – Montgomery County’s new Budget Office bureaucrat Amanda Carter, whom the Commissioners Court secretly voted to hire at $104,000 per year salary plus benefits, has made clear that she’ll continue County Judge Craig Doyal’s and County Auditor Phyllis Martin’s gamesmanship with the budget process during 2018 for Fiscal Year 2019 as what the community witness during the summer of 2017.
The “FY 2019 Budget Packet” contains no policy directing County Departments to look for spending reductions, to engage in “zero-based budgeting,” or even to engage in any budget policymaking at all. Rather, Carter’s “Packet” merely directs the County Department to submit wish lists of how much money they’d like to spend and how many employees they want to hire.
As for salaries, it’s pretty clear that the already-bloated salaries for County elected officials and County Department heads will likely increase. No one has asked for a Salary Study Committee nor would they dare. In 2016, the Commissioners Court appointed a Salary Study Committee under the sober leadership of former County Human Resources Director Diane Bass. The Committee recommended against salary increases for any elected officials, because the salaries were already way too high. The Commissioners Court immediately rejected the recommendation and gave themselves a 3.0% pay raise!
For the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget, the Commissioners Court will likely just vote themselves a pay raise as they feel like it. Carter’s “Packet” mentions that the Commissioners Court will survey “other local governments and private sector employers to provide a logical basis for comparison.” If that’s true (which no one is stupid enough to believe), the Commissioners Court will need to reduce their salaries each by approximately $60,000 per year, because they earn almost 50% more than the private sector in comparable positions.
Interestingly, the “Packet” from Carter only discusses a policy for “Salary increases” but does not mention the possibility of salary decreases.
Where the “Packet” is particularly terrible, however, is its so-called “Budget/Salary production Calendar.” Once again, as during 2017, Doyal, Carter, and Martin intend to hide the actual proposed budget from Montgomery County citizens until Wednesday, August 29, 2018, only 7 days before the Commissioners Court will vote up or down on the entire budget. There is no reason whatsoever that the Budget Office bureaucrat can’t make the proposed budget available to the public 30 days before the September 5 date on which the Court will vote finally on the budget. What triggers certain deadlines is when the Budget Director or Auditor file the Proposed Budget with the Montgomery County Clerk. Nothing in the Texas Local Government Code provides making the proposed budget available to the public well before the Budget Director or Auditor actually files it.
But in the secretive, anti-citizen world of Doyal, Martin, and Carter, they instead want to force the public to participate in two public hearings on the budget on August 14 and August 28 before they allow the public to view the proposed budget. It’s totally ridiculous and just gamesmanship to give the Commissioners Court a pretext for ignoring citizen comments during the only budget hearing that will occur after the proposed budget is made available to the public. That hearing will occur on September 5, 2018, the same day the Commissioners Court will take their final vote on the budget.
On September 5, 2017, citizens complained about the failure of the Commissioners Court to make the budget available until a few days before that final hearing. When citizens got up to complain about serious problems with the budget, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley started to shout out “Jesus Christ,” as though the Lord’s name is a profanity. Riley and Doyal both made comments to the effect that “This is pitiful that citizens are raising these issues now for the first time.” Of course, they had successfully hidden the budget from the public for two months.
Riley and Doyal refused to permit any discussion or consideration of the budget on September 5 last year.
Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack told The Golden Hammer, “What I expect is that our new Budget Officer should identify areas where we can improve efficiencies and eliminate wasteful spending. We’re a service-based organization, so our costs are directly related to our employees. We need to make sure we’re appropriately staffed at all levels. I’m not suggesting that we’re understaff; it’s the opposite.”
Citizens will suffer the same issues this year, although in possibly worse form.
Prediction: The Commissioners Court members will push for large salary increases, based on their needs, not the needs of the citizens.
They don’t care. It’s “other people’s money.”