Image: Five of the Citizens Budget Committee members, from left to right, Ginger Russell (Republican Precinct Chair, education expert, known as the Quiet Lady From Magnolia), Bob Bagley (Montgomery County Hospital District Board member, conservative activist), Kelli Cook (Campaign for Liberty Gulf Coast Regional Chair, policy wonk), Bill O’Sullivan (The Sage, Texas Patriots PAC Treasurer, THANKS Board Chairman, RAW Board member, Citizens Budget Committee Vice-Chairman), and Reagan Reed (Montgomery County Republican Precinct Chairman, Empower Texans Houston Bureau Correspondent). Not pictured are Rachael Jones, Betty Anderson, Dale Inman, Joe Sager, Georgette Whatley, Jon Bouche, Reagan Reed, Annell Simcoe, Paul Gebolys, Braden Deckard, Paul Crowson, Adrian Kaiser, Jennie Stephenson, and Jabba.
Conroe, June 4 – The Citizens Budget Committee deliberated its goal for the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget, and after a lengthy discussion mostly with respect to the height of County government salaries and benefits, voted to set a target goal of reducing government expenditures from the Montgomery County government’s current budget of $328,524,551 to $312,524,551, a reduction of spending in the amount $20,000,000 with establishment of a $2,000,000 capital fund and a $2,000,000 increase in the law enforcement budget. The goal would be to reduce spending by $16 million.
“Those spending reductions will be easy to reach if the Commissioners Court were to adopt a conservative approach to the budget,” Citizens Budget Committee Chairman Eric Yollick said. “We’ll begin going through each County Department one-by-one to find spending cuts so that there is no reduction in service to the public.
The Committee’s first public meeting on Wednesday, May 29, 2018, at the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office Academy Classroom included a lively discussion about the compensation of County employees, particularly elected servants who have voted themselves enormous salaries far beyond comparable private sector positions and far above the ten largest counties in Texas. Montgomery County is the eleventh largest County in Texas in population. Committee member and Montgomery County Hospital District Board member Bob Bailey was particularly critical of the high salaries for the managers and elected servants in the County government.
Committee Vice Chairman Bill O’Sullivan noted that government jobs have traditionally paid substantially below the private sector, not above it, although they’ve also carried with them excellent employee benefits. The remaining members of the Citizens Budget Committee strongly agreed with O’Sullivan’s discussion of exorbitant County salaries.
The Committee voted unanimously to call for $100 million in spending cuts from the County government budget by Fiscal Year 2022, along with a $20 million increase in law enforcement spending and an annual set aside of $20 million in a capital fund, for net savings of $60 million. After a lengthy discussion, the Committee also voted to phase in the spending proposals 20% in Fiscal Year 2019, 20% in Fiscal Year 2020, 30% in Fiscal Year 2021, and 30% in Fiscal Year 2022. Long time conservative activist Joe Sager had proposed a five-year phase-in for the spending reductions while he performed some financial acrobatics for the group. The Committee decided unanimously to reduce the phase-in to four years due to the pressing need to reduce spending and property taxes.
The sad tale of Montgomery County government spending
The Montgomery County government’s spending has grown explosively since 2000. Taxation has grown with the spending. Massive property taxes have begun to harm home and land sales and have given Montgomery County a terrible reputation for some of the worst property taxes in the State of Texas.
In Fiscal Year 2017, the County government’s Official Budget included $377 million of expenditures. In actuality, the amount spent will be approximately $50 million more from “slush fund” expenditures. In Fiscal Year 2000, Montgomery County’s Budget was $89 million. That’s a 424% increase! During the same time period, the County’s population only grew 84%. As Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack has noted, one would expect economies of scale during growth like that. Instead, under County Judge Craig Doyal, there actually have been the inverse of economies of scale, because neither Doyal nor his allies, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley and Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador, have taken any action to manage the County’s government operations.
There are several criteria by which one could measure the spending growth of Montgomery County. All reveal the disastrous nature of the uncontrolled government spending. Two of the criteria come from the mouth of Doyal. Three come from the Republican Party, an organization apparently offensive to Doyal and his cohorts. One of the sets of criteria come from a group of local conservative activists who formed a Citizens Budget Committee in January, 2017, and will present a detailed report over the next few weeks.
Doyal’s first measure: comparing Montgomery County spending growth to the federal government’s growth. In a campaign advertisement during the 2014 Republican Primary Election, Doyal complained “spending in Washington is out of control; in Texas we do things differently.”
Sadly, Doyal is right on both counts. Spending in Washington, D.C., for the federal government is completely out of control. In Fiscal Year 2000, the United States Government Budget included expenditures of $1.789 trillion dollars. The Fiscal Year 2017 Budget for the United States Government is $4.147 trillion dollars. That’s a 232% increase in spending in only 17 years!
The problem, however, is that Doyal is correct. Montgomery County under Doyal’s leadership is even more “out of control” than federal government spending. During the same time period when the federal budget increased 232%, Montgomery County’s budget increased 424%. In other words, we do, indeed, do things differently. The Montgomery County government’s spending increases have been far worse than those of the federal government.
Doyal’s definition of “fiscal conservative”: spending increases under a ceiling of population growth plus inflation.
Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal issued a directive on February 6, 2017, to all Montgomery County elected officials and department heads to “keep our county budget growth in line with the growth of the county’s population and inflation.” The written directive also mentioned that Doyal personally was offering taxpayers property tax relief “to assist as they struggle with rising property values on their homes.” Doyal claimed that the definition of a “fiscal conservative” was someone who held the growth of government spending to the rate of population growth plus inflation.
By Doyal’s definition of a “fiscal conservative,” Craig Doyal must be a screaming Marxist.
In order to ascertain inflation, the most commonly accepted source is the United States Consumer Price Index, or CPI, which the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics promulgates monthly and annually. In order to ascertain population growth (“Pop Growth”), the United States Bureau of the Census publishes annual numbers for the population of Montgomery County. The Government Growth Delta (“GGD”) is the CPI plus the Pop Growth:
CPI + Pop Growth = GGD.
GGD should reflect the maximum growth of the Montgomery County government.
Here are the numbers:
|Year||CPI (%)||Pop Growth (%)||GGD (%)||Population||Spending($ millions)||Actual Spending Increase (%)||What SpendingShould Be ($ millions)*|
*The “What Spending Should Be” column only represents what the spending should have been under the maximum growth formula acceptable to Republican voters. In other words, if a County government were to increase its spending by the maximum amount allowable under the Republican Proposition #2, the maximum County Budget would have been that amount. (The reader should not that the County Information Technology Department and County Auditor made a substantial mistake in calculating the total Fiscal Year 2017 expenditure budget, which The Golden Hammer caught in an earlier edition. In actuality, total Fiscal Year 2017 spending is $377 million.)
The table reveals that during the last seven fiscal years, from 2011 to 2017, Montgomery County government spending has increased $54 million more than the maximum growth that Doyal stated in his own definition. For Fiscal Year 2016, County Judge Craig Doyal and the County Commissioners grew spending at more than double the maximum acceptable rate.
County Republican Executive Committee. On February 28, 2017, the County GOP Executive Committee, composed of all of the Republican Precinct Chairs, voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution calling for significant reductions in County government spending, increases in law enforcement funding, and a 20% homestead exemption.
Doyal’s February 6, 2017, directive to County Departments contradicted the policy and principles of the local Republican Party.
Two referenda of Republican Primary voters: 2010 and 2012.
“Ballot Proposition #2: Controlling Government Growth
“Every government body in Texas should be required to limit any annual increase in its budget and spending to the combined increase of population and inflation unless it first gets voter approval to exceed the allowed annual growth or in the case of an official emergency.”
On March 6, 2012, Texas held its primary election. In the Republican Primary, voters passed a statewide referendum with 94% of the voters voting “for” the proposition.
Since Fiscal Year 2010, the County government has increased spending more than $50 million above the ceilings which Republican Primary voters approved at the ballot box.
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 Fiscal year 2017, Montgomery County’s Budget was $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%.
The County government Budget is a lot higher than you might think
The adopted Fiscal Year 2018 Budget for Governmental Expenditures (Operations + Debt Service) was $328,824,551. The Fiscal Year 2017 Budget for Governmental Expenditures was $347,914,687.
Due to the haste in which Riley and his colleagues adopted the FY 2018 Budget, Riley and colleagues have had to adopt millions of dollars and thousands of pages of Budget Amendments each of eighteen (18) times so far since the FY 2018 Fiscal Year began on October 1, 2018.
With all of those Budget Amendments, the actual expenditures to date in FY 2018 are $241,974,493, which, conservatively, means that the total expenditures will be at least $362,961,739.50 by the end of Fiscal Year 2018 on September 30, 2018. Those numbers come, by the way, from the Financial Transparency Portal (how ironic!) on the Montgomery County government’s website.
If you’re wondering how those expenditures are divided, here’s what we know so far, although it’s readily apparent from the County government’s accounting that County Auditor Phyllis Martin is way behind in her bookkeeping:
- Salaries $111,645,837, or 46.14% of total expenditures. Those expenditures are up 17.65% from last year.
- Benefits $48,960,904, or 19.94% of total expenditures. Those expenditures are down 3.24% from last year.
- Supplies $16,725,427, or 6.91% of total expenditures. Those expenditures are up 71.45% from last year.
- Services (are there any?!) $43,623,789, or $18.03% of total expenditures. Those expenditures are up 4.49% from last year.
- Capital outlays $20,269,791, or 8.38% of total expenditures. Those expenditures are up 444.80% from last year!
- Miscellaneous $1,292,699, or 0.53% of total expenditures. Those expenditures are up $1,394.30% from last year!!!
Those numbers are disgusting. There’s one giant takeaway. While services are only up 4.49% from last year, County government salaries are up 17.65% while supplies are up 71.45%. Under Riley’s and Doyal’s tutelage, the County government is rapidly becoming far less efficient than it has ever been previously.