Image: An accident showing the confluence of law enforcement with road and bridge operations.
Conroe, July 24 – The Citizens Budget Committee’s report, which issued on Friday, July 21, 2017, addressed the two primary County functions – law enforcement and roads – among several other topics related to County government spending. The Committee’s report included $24 million of spending cuts none of which were in law enforcement or roads.
The Committee proposed a $307.4 million budget with a total of $29.0 million of expenditures of internal services funds, for a total County budget of $336.4 million, while County Auditor Phyllis Martin has recommended a $344 million budget in comparison.
For a copy of the full Citizens Budget Committee report, please see “Citizens Budget Committee Proposes Major Administrative Spending Cuts in County Budget, Solution to Audit Mess,” The Golden Hammer, July 23, 2017.
Roads and Bridges
The Citizens Budget Committee road and bridge accounts include the County Engineer and the Commissioners Precincts. The Montgomery County Engineer’s office is one of the more troubled departments in Montgomery County. The Department Director does not come to work full-time. Meanwhile, three of the four County Commissioners rely upon expensive outside contractor, John Holzwarth, P.E., to perform most of the job functions of the County Engineer at an astronomical expense to County taxpayers. The Committee report addressed some of those issues, especially the necessity to rely upon a full-time County Engineer rather than a far more expensive outside engineer.
The Committee examined the “slush funds” which the Commissioners accumulate in unspent road and bridge funds from budget year to budget year. Those funds are largely not accounted for in the annual budgeting which the Commissioners Court does through a process that should be most public.
One of major problems Montgomery County faces is that the Commissioners should act as the “project managers” for all of the road and bridge projects in their respective precincts. Instead, they act like politicians who issue many orders but don’t do the project management work. They then hire engineering firms to provide the project management services at a cost of tens of millions of dollars to Montgomery County. Montgomery County citizens only get about 30 cents of value for every road dollar which they spend. 70 cents goes to unnecessary project management charges, engineering overcharges, and over budgeting.
One of the fundamental goals of the Citizens Budget Committee is to take approximately 40% of the expenditure savings taken from the County Budget and put those funds back into law enforcement and a capital fund (which would include roads). Montgomery County suffers from a major patrol officer shortfall of approximately 800 peace officers according the Federal Bureau Investigation study of national averages.
The Committee has recommended that the Commissioners Court accept all of the proposed budgets from law enforcement and judicial departments with the exception of the Precinct 4 Constable (East Montgomery County). The Committee believes that Constable’s Precinct 4 in Montgomery County is the front line of the war on drugs in the entire United States, because drug cartels and dealings bring their goods from Mexico up the State Highway 59 corridor for distribution throughout the United States. Therefore, the Committee has recommended a $1 million budget increase over the budget Constable Kenneth “Rowdy” Hayden has requested in order to add between 10 to 20 patrol officers over and above his budget request. Those funds would also pay for uniforms, benefits, computers, and related equipment.
The Citizens Budget Committee will present its report to the Commissioners Court as part of the agenda for the regular Court meeting on Tuesday, July 25, 2017, at 9:30 a.m.