Image: U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (left) getting sound advice from Montgomery County community leader Bill O’Sullivan (right).
Conroe, February 14 – Community activist and sage Bill O’Sullivan called on Montgomery County elected leaders to focus on the real reform necessary to reduce the pressure on taxes, “real budget reform.” Speaking to County Judge Craig Doyal and the four County Commissioners in the midst of a lengthy discussion concerning property tax reform and increasing the County homestead exemption from property taxes, O’Sullivan said, “Many want and are calling for property tax reform or increasing our homestead exemption. That would be tempting. However, that would temporarily abate the pressure where it’s really needed, real budget reform.”
O’Sullivan noted that 94% of Republican voters supported a referendum during the 2010 Republican Primary Election to restrict budget growth to population plus inflation, which would “create a baseline to measure where we are today to where we should be following the instructions of our voters. It also gives us a target to meet by bending the cost curve down to meet the will drawn by the people.”
As The Golden Hammer has previously reported, based upon the 2010 Republican Montgomery County referendum, Montgomery County spending should be no more than $327 million for Fiscal Year 2017, assuming that County government leaders had no fiscal discipline whatsoever and spent the maximum ceiling amount which Republican voters established. (Please see “Montgomery County Government Spending Increases Have Defied Republican Voters’ Wishes: The Reckless Numbers Do Not Lie” (February 17, 2017)) In fact, Judge Doyal and the County Commissioners have exercised even less discipline and enacted a $381 million Budget for Fiscal Year 2017, while allowing growth to exceed the Republican ceiling amount every single year since the referendum.
O’Sullivan offered some specific suggestions how to begin to pare down the explosive County Budget. First, O’Sullivan called for a “full review of our pay and benefits and bring them in line with the pay and benefits of similar counties as well as the private sector.” Second, O’Sullivan criticized the County Commissioners’ use of road and bridge dedicated funds for other purposes. Third, he demanded that “contingency” fund spending should only occur in the event of “emergency needs” such as hurricanes or floods.
The community sage, whom many refer to as the “Yoda” of Montgomery County due to his “force”-ful arguments, suggested as “as the budget reduces, we should begin to apply the homestead exemption so that the gains in budget reduction are made permanent by the tax reduction.” Under the Property Tax Code, homestead exemptions are permanent once a County approves them. O’Sullivan has made an important point here. It’s good to talk about property tax reform and the homestead exemption. Nevertheless, the County government must show leadership and show from where the funds for those reductions will come. The County government must make a serious effort to reducing spending.
In 1996, United States Senator Phil Gramm (R-Texas), a Ph.D. economist by trade, gave a major policy address in College Station in which he foresaw that United States government spending at all levels of government – local, state, and federal – would likely lead to a major fiscal collapse of the United States by 2031. Montgomery County is one of the strongest conservative Republican counties in the United States. There is simply no excuse for our County government not to show strong leadership by implementing real government spending reductions. We don’t need Judge Doyal pointing the finger of blame at school districts, as he did during Commissioners Court on February 14. We don’t need the Commissioners calling for the Texas Legislature to act on property tax reform and diverting attention away from where they can provide real leadership. Statewide property tax reform would be nice.
The County Commissioners Court must show genuine leadership, tighten its belt, and reduce County government spending right here at home in Montgomery County. In reality, those reductions could occur will little or no reductions in service. They’d merely have to apply management principles to the County government, eliminate waste, and bring an end to the culture of nepotism and explosive spending they’ve created.
O’Sullivan further noted that, as a matter of sound fiscal management and budget control, the full Commissioners Court should exercise its duty under the Texas Constitution to manage all County departments and eliminate Judge Craig Doyal’s usurpation of that function by reserving that management solely to himself.
Addressing Montgomery County’s reputation for massively high property taxes and for the corruption insider of its County government, O’Sullivan concluded, “We can do this. We need to do this. Companies and people will be migrating here not only drawn by the weather, but also the business and tax climate we exemplify. Setting up our budget in this manner will bring us another wave of growth.”