Conroe, June 24 – Both Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal and Precinct 3 County Commissioner have authored flood control resolutions for the Tuesday, June 26, 2018, Commissioners Court meeting, but the two have taken very different approaches.
The lame duck County Judge Doyal, whose ties to engineering vendors are much $tronger than any interest he’s ever had in helping the citizens of Montgomery County, has offered a resolution – on the secretive “consent” agenda – that commits the Montgomery County government to join with the San Jacinto River Authority in taking responsibility to “provide flood control” inside of the San Jacinto River watershed. Doyal’s proposal has enormous financial disadvantages to Montgomery County citizens, because he’s seeking to commit County taxpayers to fund the “flood control” for which the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) is exclusively responsible under Texas law.
The SJRA has enormous financial resources to provide the “flood control” which has been its statutory responsibility since 1937. Nevertheless, SJRA has failed to provide “flood control” throughout its entire history, until Governor Greg Abbott and State Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) pressured the delinquent agency after the disastrous Tropical Storm Harvey flooding, for which SJRA was largely responsible. Doyal clearly seeks to deflect criticism away from his engineering cohorts at SJRA, particularly Halff Associates, the engineering firm of Doyal’s best friend and business partner Bobby Jack Adams, by causing the County government to assume some of the responsibility for what SJRA should have done for more than eight decades.
SJRA’s latest Comprehensive Annual Financial Report is quite telling on whether SJRA should actually raise water fees to pay for the “flood control” the Texas Legislature mandated SJRA to provide since 1937. SJRA enjoyed $32.8 million of unrestricted cash and a net financial position of $152.7 million on $794.5 million of assets at the end of Fiscal Year 2017.
While total government expenditures for the state agency have increased 282.8% since 2008 for the state agency, salaries have increased a whopping 337.5% to $12,182,806 in salaries out of $65,727,546 in total government expenditures. Meanwhile the price of SJRA’s water has increased from $1.01 per thousand gallons to $2.10 per thousand gallons.
In other words, SJRA’s financial picture has blossomed since LSGCD’s monopolistic regulations have forced water users to purchase from SJRA.
In announcing the 1.5 cent increase on its raw water, SJRA General Manager Jace Houston said, “Since we don’t have the power to levy taxes, the Flood Management Division is funded from raw water sale revenue.” If that’s the case, there simply is no reason SJRA should increase its prices at all, given the massive profit SJRA is already making on raw water sales. During Fiscal Year 2017, SJRA enjoyed $94.9 million in operating revenues with only $65.7 million of operating expenses and another $23.6 million of non-operating expenses primarily on bond interest payments.
Therefore, SJRA is already enjoying a $5.6 million operating profit on its monopolistic sale of water. That profit, plus the unrestricted $32.8 million of cash SJRA already has, should easily be sufficient to fund the “flood control” SJRA has a legal duty to provide the citizens of the watershed of the San Jacinto River other than in Harris County where SJRA has no duty.