Image: The explosive spending growth of the Montgomery County government under County Judge Craig Doyal, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, and Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador has gone nuclear. They’ve done nothing to manage the operations of the County government. While they’ve slept (or played golf), the citizens have paid taxes.
Conroe, July 29 – County Judge Craig Doyal and the Montgomery County Commissioners Court failed to rein in any County government spending after four days of “budget workshops” in which Doyal excluded public participation, ignored a Citizens Budget Committee report which offered $24 million of spending reduction proposals, wasted several months of opportunity to prepare for the budget hearings, and made irrelevant two dozen County Department Directors’ hard work where they actually proposed spending cuts for their departments. While the Commissioners Court accepted some of those spending reductions, Doyal couldn’t help himself from spending funds on new programs, especially the capital projects which he and his County vendors crave.
It’s worth mentioning that Precinct 4 Constable Kenneth “Rowdy” Hayden was the one elected official or Department head who had the courage and moral fortitude to thank the Citizens Budget Committee for their work while he stood at the podium before the Commissioners Court on Friday.
By maintaining the tax rate at $0.4667 per $100 valuation, most Montgomery County citizens will experience a tax increase unless they can take advantage of the 20% homestead exemption (against which Doyal and Riley voted until citizen fury convinced them otherwise). Owners of vacation homes or of commercial real estate must bear the full brunt of Doyal’s and cronies’ tax increase, despite the opportunity to have reduced County spending and taxes substantially.
The Commissioners Court approved a budget of $328,751,430 in violation of the Texas Local Government Code, because the mandated process requires that (1) the County Auditor file her “proposed budget” with the County Clerk, (2) the Commissioners Court hold a “public hearing” within 14 days of her filing the proposed budget during which citizens may participate, (3) the Commissioners then vote on the proposed budget at the conclusion of the hearing. County Auditor Phyllis Martin filed her “proposed budget” for Fiscal Year 2018 on July 14, 2017, with Montgomery County Clerk Mark Turnbull. Her filing letter for her “proposed budget” follows.
The Commissioners Court failed to hold any public hearing at all with respect to Martin’s “proposed budget.” Since Doyal sought to exclude any public participation from the “budget workshop,” Doyal instructed County Department directors to refer to Martin’s “proposed budget” as a “recommended budget.” Still, however, the Commissioners Court adopted the budget at the end of the meeting without ever holding a public hearing.
It’s worse than we thought…
Doyal and the Commissioners Court actually increased spending from the current Fiscal Year to next year. Here’s how they did it.
Thanks to the leadership, research, and efforts of Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack, the County defeated substantial debt during Fiscal Year 2017, to that the County’s debt service budget will be $21,828,273 less during Fiscal Year 2018. The actual numbers follow:
Fiscal Year Total Cty Gov’t Debt Service County Gov’t Spending
Spending Without Debt
2017 $347,914,687 $55,421,672 $292,493,015
2018 $328,751,430 $33,593,399 $295,158,031
Actual Spending INCREASE $2,665,016 !!!
That’s right. Under Doyal’s spending leadership, in this climate where the citizens are demanding reductions in government spending, Craig Doyal and colleagues actually increased government spending. Only Noack’s work to reduce the debt service allowed them to claim that there is a budget decrease. The actual County spending budget is increasing by $2.6 million!!!!!!!
Now, Doyal may try to claim that, under his supposed leadership, one of the citizens’ demands – more law enforcement boots on the ground – was met with this budget. It is true that the County government increased law enforcement by 53.5 positions (a half position is a part-time deputy constable in Precinct 2 Constable Gene De Forest’s Office.)
Where Doyal, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador, and their colleagues failed the citizens was in failing to reduce spending sufficiently to lower the tax rate.
Montgomery Central Appraisal District
There was some amazing sleight of hand at the Commissioners Court at the end of the meeting just before noon on the morning of Friday, July 28. Doyal announced that he had meet with the Montgomery Central Appraisal District earlier and that they informed him that the County’s contribution to the increased MCAD Budget for Fiscal Year 2018 will actually be $300,000 less than during Fiscal Year 2017, as a result of the 20% homestead exemption the County passed after Noack, Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark, and finally Riley agreed to the exemption. Therefore, the County’s share of the MCAD Budget will be less.
With that sleight of hand, Doyal then convinced the entire Commissioners Court to approve MCAD’s substantially higher budget for Fiscal Year 2018! In other words, by the County approving that budget, while the County government will pay less to MCAD, MCAD’s taxpayers who are the citizens of Montgomery County will pay substantially more to the appraisal district that works closely with Doyal and the County government to raise taxes through higher appraisals.
Doyal, Riley, Meador, Noack, and Clark were so gleeful that they could claim they reduced the County’s payment to MCAD that they sent the entire citizenry of Montgomery County out to the tax appraisal firing range.
To add insult to injury, the Commissioners Court agreed to take the $300,000 they “saved” from the payment to MCAD and plow the entirety of it into a new bureaucratic “Budget Office.”
Noack told The Golden Hammer, “Judge Doyal has assured me that the Budget Office will be independent of the County Judge or County Auditor and will report only directly to the entire County Commissioners Court.”
Some County Departments did a good job
Doyal, Riley, and Meador literally did nothing to contribute to spending reductions. Noack and Clark urged the County Departments to propose budgets for the coming Fiscal Year that would include 5% spending reductions. Some Departments did so. Other Departments proposed much smaller reductions. Some Departments proposed increases. Noack’s and Clark’s leadership on those spending reductions spurred some Department Directors to make reductions.
The reality, however, is that, other than Noack and Clark, no one on the Commissioners Court lifted a finger to reduce County spending. In fact, they spent more money than ever previously.
In fact, Doyal, Riley, and Meador led such a large wave of spending increases that those increases wiped out the Departmental budget reductions.
The bottom line is that the County government did not reduce spending even by the amount of the reduction in debt service. The other bottom line is that Doyal urged the Commissioners Court not to lower the tax rate at all.
Your taxes will remain at $0.4667 per $100 valuation for Fiscal Year 2018. Hold onto your wallets, however, because the Commissioners Court has already begun to discuss enormous salary increases for Fiscal Year 2019.