July 26 – Montgomery County Custodial Maintenance Department Director Lorena Garcia proclaimed that adoption of the Citizens Budget Committee Report’s recommendation to reduce her Department’s salaries would lead to “catastrophic” impacts on Montgomery County, even announcing her fear of “sick building syndrome” and mass layoffs of custodial staff. Garcia, of course, failed to consider the possibility that she might examine reducing the top-heavy management and administrative portions of her Departmental salaries and that the County might reduce the enormous inefficiency in its pattern of building use.
The Custodial Maintenance Department generally spends more than $100,000 per year less than in their adopted budget, so there is at least that amount of fluff in the Custodial Budget. Comparing the amount which Montgomery County spends on comparable counties, such as Fort Bend County and Collin County, this County spends approximately three times what those counties spend on custodial services.
The Building Custodial Maintenance Department’s current year budget is $3,299,046. The Citizens Budget Committee proposed a budget of $2,495,520. More specifically, the Committee recommended reducing the salaries of $2,034,644 to $1,504,042 with a contemporaneous reduction of approximately $230,000 in County benefits.
In response Garcia suggested that she would need to eliminate her entire part-time custodial staff. The Citizens Budget Committee foresaw the likelihood that a manager trying to protect her job and the management jobs of her top-heavy department would make such a suggestion. Nevertheless, the Committee Report specifically makes clear that the Committee’s recommendation regarding salaries should come from reduction of the “grossly top heavy” management staff.
Sick building syndrome threat
In an attempt to manipulate the public into fearing budget cuts, Garcia also suggested that reduction of her workforce would also lead to “sick building syndrome” and a harm to the public which visits certain County buildings.
Garcia’s attempted manipulation, however, revealed little more than her misunderstanding of “sick building syndrome” which was the subject of much litigation approximately 30 years ago.
A 1984 World Health Organization study as well as numerous medical reports from the Centers for Disease Control since then have supported that “sick building syndrome” results primarily from poor air circulation in commercial buildings as a result of problems with air conditioning systems.
Scientific studies reveal that HVAC systems, not poor custodial maintenace, causes illness likened as “sick building syndrome.” Therefore, it’s quite clear that Garcia does not understand the concept and merely attempted to scare the public with respect to proposed budget reductions.