Conroe, May 8 – The Montgomery County Commissioners Court Agenda for the May 9, 2017, meeting at 9:30 a.m., is rather mundane for the “open meeting” portion, because all of the controversial items are hidden on the “consent agenda” which they Commissioners won’t discuss. The County Auditor’s items, however, do contain potential peril for Montgomery County taxpayers. Agenda Item 16E, a vaguely-worded item that would seem to permit the Commissioners Court to discuss and act upon almost anything pertaining to the County Budget, seems to contain the greatest potential peril. County Judge Craig Doyal has made clear to several County Department Directors that he does not expect them to reduce their budgets for the upcoming Fiscal Year. It’s possible his cronies Commissioners Charlie Riley and Mike Meador will provide formal instruction to County Departments that they don’t need to analyze their budgets at all, other than providing a possible wish list of spending increases.
The specific agenda items, other than the “consent agenda” and “executive session” items follow.
Agenda Item 11A: This item is not in the least controversial. The Texas Comptroller has extended until June 1, 2017, for County governments to claim unclaimed property consisting of deposits consumers had paid to electric cooperative companies. The State has a program to permit counties to claim such funds. Montgomery County, along with several other counties, missed the original deadline to file a claim.
Agenda Item 13: The County Airport Maintenance Department wants to grant an exemption from user fees to the U.S. Customs Service.
Agenda Item 16A: Under the “pass thru toll” program, Montgomery County will receive a reimbursement of $0.07 (7 cents) for each mile of road driven on the roads constructed under the “pass thru toll” program. Of the original $98 million reimbursement under this program, $16,117,881.06 remains in the allotment of funds to which Montgomery County is entitled.
Montgomery County’s debt service is $41.5 million per year. The County Auditor has provided debt models for the Commissioners Court to consider whether paying down the debt with the “pass thru” funds would make more sense in order to save substantial funds on the debt payments than merely continuing to pay the debt in due course each year. Commissioner James Noack commented, “I would hope that the Court find spending cuts rather than relying on the defeasance to get all of the savings we need to meet the reduced County revenue projections as a result of the 20% homestead exemption.”
Agenda Item 16B: Montgomery County’s retirement system, one of the most aggressively lucrative plans in the State of Texas, will likely cost taxpayers around $50 million during Fiscal Year 2018.
Agenda Item 16D: The County Auditor provided a report showing what a 5% reduction in each County Department would be under the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget.
The County Judge Doyal would only have to reduce $32,374.05 from his Department’s budget, which is actually less money than the vacant position with which he pads his payroll each year.
Agenda Item 16E: “CONSIDER AND DISCUSS AND TAKE ANY APPROPRIATE ACTION ON PREVIOUS REPORTS FILED BY AUDITOR FOR FY 2018.” This agenda item is far too vague to provide adequate notice under the Texas Open Meetings Act. For that reason, taxpayers should find this item frightening. It could be almost anything. Obviously Judge Doyal has some trick up his sleeve so that the public will not have notice for what he want to do to us.
Agenda Item 17A: The County will give a $2.4 million contract to TLC Trucking & Contracting, Inc., to provide hazardous material removal and cleanup from the Fish Creek Thoroughfare project.
The County will give Aranda Brothers Construction Co., Inc., a $523,000 contract to replace the Alford Road bridge.