Image: Precinct 3 Constable Ryan Gable (back to camera) speaking to the Montgomery County Commissioners Court on Thursday, July 27, 2018. Court members, left to right, Jim Clark (Precinct 4), James Noack (Precinct 3), Judge Craig Doyal, Charlie Riley (Precinct 2), and Mike Meador (Precinct 1).
Conroe, July 27 – County Judge Craig Doyal and County Auditor Phyllis Martin have proclaimed their great success in findings savings to reduce the County government’s expenditure budget for Fiscal Year 2018. In actuality, they’ve accomplished nothing. The only cost savings they’ve “found” are the reductions to debt service which Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack led earlier this year as well as departmental savings which Noack and Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark urged.
Doyal said “the citizens want lower taxes and more law enforcement.” So true. What he’s missing is that the citizens also want government spending reduced substantially so that there will not be pressure to increase taxes in the future. Montgomery County citizens have expressed a strong desire to leave a legacy for their children that permits this nation to have a strong fiscal future.
Doyal completed ignored the Citizens Budget Committee’s recommendations. Real spending reductions after a study of best management practices and efficiency are unwelcome in the Montgomery County government. (So are Republican Platform planks.)
The alleged reduction in expenditures
While County bureaucrats would resist any reduction in their budgets, particularly those for salaries, citizens in Montgomery County have had enough of the spending increases over which Doyal has presided. Since 2000, approximately the time when Doyal became involved in County budgeting, County government spending has grown 424% while the population has grown only 84%. Despite the strong conservative bent of the citizens in Montgomery County, the County’s government spending has grown faster than almost every single County government throughout Texas. Amazingly, Montgomery County’s government spending has grown faster than the federal government’s during the same time period, despite two major wars and several economic downturns.
Doyal and County Auditor Phyllis Martin have tried to take credit for a $33 million spending reduction. The real number of the reduction is closer to $11.5 million, and that number is declining rapidly. Neither Doyal nor Martin should receive any credit for the reduction. Actually, Doyal and Martin attempted to send the message to the County Departments that they should just ask for more money to the extent they so desired. Please see “Doyal’s and Martin’s ‘Budget Packet’ Illustrates Complete Failure to Control County Government Spending And A Total of Absence of Any Desire to Do So,” The Golden Hammer, March 28, 2017.
What became very clear during the “Budget Workshop” on July 25, 26, and 27, 2017, was that County Judge Craig Doyal, who proclaims himself the “CEO” of Montgomery County, has no idea what is actually happening inside of the County Departments. There simply is no “management by wandering around” occurring within Montgomery County. Rather, it’s management from Doyal’s golf cart at his country club.
Doyal and County Auditor Phyllis Martin have bragged about expenditure reductions proposed for Fiscal Year 2018. Here are the numbers which do not include internal service funds (employee benefit plans, self-insurance, retirements), but it’s important to remember that “Debt Service” is part of the “Total Gov’t Spending” below:
Fiscal Year Total Gov’t Debt Service Gov’t Spending
Spending Without Debt
2017 $347,914,687 $55,421,672 $292,493,015
2018 $314,589,865 $33,593,399 $280,996,466
Actual Spending Reduction $11,496,549 !!!
The proposed budget, which County Auditor Phyllis Martin filed with the County Clerk on July 14, 2017, is only an $11,496,549 reduction all of which came from the County Department Directors who consulted with Noack about their budgets. That number seems to be shrinking each day of the “Budget Workshop.”
Now, there’s an interesting question about that reduction when one compares it to a major benchmark against which several County leaders have measured their Departments and other programs. In 2010, Republican Primary election voters passed a referendum in Montgomery County that established a ceiling on the growth of government spending equal to the rate of population growth plus the rate of inflation. County Clerk Mark Turnbull began to call that number the “Noack Yardstick.”
Turnbull created a table showing the growth of Montgomery County’s government in comparison to the Noack Yardstick, showing that government growth is far above the maximum which Republican voters established in 2010.
What the chart shows is that Montgomery County’s budget is approximately $125 million above where it should be with respect to the Noack Yardstick of government spending growth. Therefore, even with the tiny decrease in the proposed Fiscal Year 2018 Budget, the County will still be approximately $100 million over budget.
According to the United States Census Bureau, Montgomery County’s rate of population growth during this year is 3.69%. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Consumer Price Index for the current 12 month period is 1.6%, which is the annualized rate of inflation.
Noack Yardstick = rate of population growth + rate of inflation
Noack Yardstick = 3.69% + 1.6% = 5.29%.
The Montgomery County spending budget should be in the range of $230 million if Doyal and Martin followed the Noack Yardstick. Instead, County government spending will still be in the range of at least $85 million more than that amount.
The Citizens Budget Committee proposed more than $24 million of real spending cuts in the County government. Doyal, Martin, and the Commissioners Court completely ignored those recommendations in their entirety.
How Doyal and Martin finally got under the Noack Yardstick for Fiscal Year 2018
In actuality, Doyal and Martin accomplished nothing in their proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2018. It was Noack who provided the leadership and financial guidance that resulted in the debt service reduction. That provided almost $22 million of spending reductions.
Far more important, however, is the fact that Noack and Clark both called for each County Department (other than law enforcement) to reduce spending for Fiscal Year 2018 by 5%. Noack told The Golden Hammer that almost all of the County Department Directors who proposed spending reductions for Fiscal Year 2018 had contacted and discussed their budgets with Noack prior to submitting their proposals to County Auditor Martin.
The bottom line is that Doyal, Riley, and Meador provided nothing whatsoever to ease the spending and taxation burden on Montgomery County citizens. Instead, they’ve just imagined and implemented new ways to spend money and eliminate savings that others found for them.