Image: The giant eyeball of watchful citizens?
Eric Yollick, Former Publisher, The Golden Hammer, and Guest Editorialist
It’s time for the citizens of Montgomery County to get the eye back on the ball of government spending. Watching and reporting about abusive government spending has been the core mission of The Golden Hammer. This newspaper will return to its roots beginning tomorrow (Monday, November 11), after a brief sojourn into the Conroe Independent School District’s terrible $677.3 Million bond package.
Two governmental entities lead the pack with respect to those which citizens must pressure to reduce and control their spending: the Montgomery County government and Conroe Independent School District (CISD).
Montgomery County Government
When I began looking at County government spending in June, 2016, the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget was $331,709,807. The goal, which the Citizens Budget Committee adopted and urged our elected servants to adopt was to reduce total government spending by $40,000,000.00, while increasing law enforcement spending by $20,000,000.00, for net savings of $20,000,000.00.
The County government has utterly failed to achieve those goals in both respects – total spending has not decline while support for law enforcement has clearly not increased.
Today, the Fiscal Year 2020 Budget, which begin on October 1, 2019, totals $336,572,225. Nevertheless, that total amount is partly an accounting trick, because the County government has taken out two gigantic pass-through accounts from the Budget, the Joe Corley Facility at $15,800,000 and the Mental Health Facility at $15,417,450.
Therefore comparing apples to apples, in terms of the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget of $331,709,807, which included those pass-throughs, here are the real numbers:
Fiscal Year 2016 Budget = $300,492,357 (governmental expenditures after subtraction of pass-throughs).
Fiscal Year 2020 Budget = $336,572,225 (governmental expenditures after subtraction of pass-throughs).
Rather than reducing government spending, the Montgomery County government has actually increased government spending by $36,079,868. The County government has failed to address “ghost employees” (positions without people in them which still tax the citizens), inflated salaries and benefits, and the hiring of far too many employees to accomplish the necessary tasks. Additionally, the County government has failed to address unnecessary functions, such as giving away tax dollars to private entities, unnecessary libraries, and a money-loser of an airport which should be in private hands. The County has also failed to address one of its biggest problems: grossly inflated engineering and construction prices for the construction of roads, bridges, and public facilities.
As for law enforcement, Sheriff Rand Henderson still suffers from a patrol officer shortage. At the same time, there’s a serious question why the five Constable Offices are exploding in number of personnel and the equipment to support them, when the constitutional function of Constables is to serve process, a minimal task.
Conroe Independent School District
CISD is a taxation and spending mess. Despite the property tax reform which paid the school district massive surplus funds and required it to lower the maintenance and operations tax rate by 7 cents, CISD wiped out the property tax savings by increasing the tax rate for debt service by 4 cents in order to pay for the $653 Million bond package, which the citizens just approved. CISD increased the tax rate during the budget process, so it was able then to lie to citizens and claim the bond package bore “no tax rate increase,” a complete fabrication (which made no sense).
Where CISD is completely out of any control is in its purchasing. Purchasing prices are grossly inflated to the delight of PBK Architects, CISD’s favorite vendor. Additionally, CISD’s number of administrators and administrator salaries are ridiculously high.
CISD’s spending budget has grown far faster than its student enrollment growth. That’s because Superintendent Curtis Null and the democrat-controlled Board of Trustees have worked to ensure that vendor payments grow at a rapid rate and that administrative salaries grow at a clip of 3.5% per year.
All citizens of Montgomery County should protest CISD’s spending, not just those citizens who live within the geographic boundaries of CISD. Why? Because CISD with its massive tax collections controls the elections of the Board of Directors of the Montgomery Central Appraisal District, so that CISD is the primary cause of the push to raise property tax appraisal in order to increase government tax collections as rapidly as possible, in addition to raising tax rates.
Citizens must keep their eye on the ball: reducing government spending.
That will remain the sharp focus of The Golden Hammer in coming months.