Conroe, July 22 – The Citizens Budget Committee issued its proposed Fiscal Year 2018 Budget in a 36-page report provided to the members of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court on Friday, July 21, 2017. The proposed budget includes total expenditures of $307,497,321, plus $28,968,161 for “internal service funds” (employee benefits, casualty and liability payments) for a total Fiscal Year 2018 Budget of $336,465,482, a reduction of approximately $41 million from the adopted Fiscal Year 2017 Budget, which the Commissioners Court approved on September 6, 2016, with many dozens of amendments since that time. If the Commissioners Court so chose, the Committee’s proposed Budget would afford a substantial reduction in the County’s tax rate while providing a boost to law enforcement departments to add more “boots on the ground” for law enforcement and public safety.
On July 14, 2017, County Auditor Phyllis Martin, who is also the County’s Chief Budget Officer, issued a proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2018, which includes $338,209,492 of expenditures, plus $30,082,670 of expenditures, for a total proposed Budget of $368,292,162. Martin did not propose any spending reductions, although she did adopt some of the spending reductions which County Department directors had submitted along with their proposed departmental budgets.
Overall Citizens Budget Committee Proposal
The Citizens Budget Committee proposed a Fiscal Year 2018 Budget with the following overall features:
- Total expenditures from general fund and internal service funds = $336,465,482
- Total expenditures from general funds = $307,497,321
- Debt service of $33,593,399
- A non-law enforcement budget of $109,029,690
- A law enforcement budget of $164,874,232.
The Committee adopted all of the budgets which the law enforcement departments of the Montgomery County government proposed with the exception of the proposed budget for the Precinct 4 Constable, Kenneth “Rowdy” Hayden for which the Committee supported a budget larger than the one Hayden requested. The Committee explained in its report:
“The Committee recommends that the Commissioners Court adopt the proposed spending budgets of the law enforcement departments, with the exception of the Precinct 4 Constable. The Sheriff has not yet moved to zero-based budgeting, but his budget divides the Sheriff’s Office into cost centers to enable that process after one fiscal year.
“The Committee believes the Commissioners Court should devote $1,000,000 of additional patrol resources to the Precinct 4 Constable. Drug crimes in Precinct 4 are increasing as are drug-related crimes. Furthermore, the State Highway 59 corridor has become a major drug distribution thoroughfare that impacts all of North America. The current officeholder of the Precinct 4 Constable position has shown a strong proclivity for excellent fiscal management as well as excellent training and management of his team.”
The Committee’s Executive Summary noted that Montgomery County’s Budget has grown to $377 million per year of expenditures, an increase of 424% since 2000 and 77% since 2010, while population has only grown by 84% since 2000. In comparison, Collin County, which has almost twice the population of Montgomery County, has a budget just over $328.8 million.
The Committee told the Commissioners Court:
“The goal of the Citizens Budget Committee is to reduce expenditures by $100 million by Fiscal Year 2021 but to establish a capital improvement fund and increase law enforcement resources by a total of $40 million, for net savings of $60 million.”
The Committee concluded the Executive Summary at the front of its report as follows:
“Every citizen in this community enjoys friendly people, beautiful natural resources, and strong private business leaders (such as Hackett, Mitchell, Belin, and Marling) who have brought vast economic opportunities and development to this area. Our citizenry possesses enormous informal and formal education. We are one of the most conservative counties in the United States.
“If any county can show great leadership to tighten our belt and make our government leaner yet stronger to achieve its core functions of law enforcement and road and bridge construction and maintenance, it is and should be Montgomery County, Texas.”
How the Committee worked
A public invitation occurred at the December 13, 2016, Commissioners Court meeting for interested citizens to become involved with the work of the Committee. The following individuals attended some or all of the Citizens Budget Committee meetings: Bill O’Sullivan, Bob Bagley, Kelli Cook, Paul Crowson, Braden Deckard, Rachael Jones, Reagan Reed, Ginger Russell, Annell Simcoe, Georgette Whatley, and this newspaper’s publisher.
Four subcommittees formed to conduct detailed line-by-line analyses of the entire budgets of every County department: General Administration (Chair Reagan Reed), County Services (Chair Bob Bagley), Road and Bridge (Chair Bill O’Sullivan), and Law Enforcement (Georgette Whatley). The Committee met five times as a full Committee in addition to the subcommittee meetings. Additionally, smaller Committee cohorts met or communicated with the dozens of County Department Directors and almost 100 County government employees who graciously participated in the process. The report involved more than 1500 person-hours of time over five months.
Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark sponsored the July 25, 2017, agenda item, so that the Committee could make a 12-minute presentation to the Court. County Judge Craig Doyal’s staff worked with and cooperated with Clark with respect to the agenda item.
The Golden Hammer’s coverage
This newspaper will present two additional days of coverage of the Citizens Budget Committee report and will work to make the entire report available online to the public by Sunday, July 23, 2017.