Conroe, August 6 – On Tuesday, July 28, 2020, Montgomery County Budget Director Amanda Carter let the cat out of the bag! Carter provided the strongest argument of all why no governmental entity in Montgomery County should raise salaries or other compensation of government employees as they consider their budgets for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2020.
Carter made a presentation to the Montgomery County Commissioners Court in which she noted that local unemployment is 12.25%, a rate higher than the national average, because Montgomery County’s local economy is so dependent upon the petrochemical industry. That’s an acutely high unemployment rate as well, due to all of the business shutdowns, layoffs, and permanent closures from government mandates related to the Chinese Coronavirus pandemic.
The critical number, which Carter disclosed publicly, however, was the United States Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the last twelve months. The CPI has only been 0.6%, meaning that there has been almost no inflation or increase in the cost of living whatsoever since a year ago, when local governmental entities set their budgets.
For that reason, the members of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court unanimously voted not to raise any salaries in the Budget for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2021. Amazingly, the Commissioners didn’t even give themselves pay raises.
That one instance of self-discipline of the Commissioners Court in not raising government salaries for the next Budget Year reveals how completely out of touch with the reality of this community is the Conroe Independent School District (CISD) and its Board of Trustees.
Two nights ago, on Tuesday, August 4, 2020, CISD’s Chief Financial Officer Darren Rice urged the CISD Board of Trustees to adopt substantial “cost of living adjustment” (COLA) pay increases for every single CISD employee, including, of course, Rice himself. Despite the massive depression of salaries for private individuals and families due to business closures, business failures, and layoffs, CISD intends to go forward with a massive across-the-board salary increase for every employee of the school district.
Administrators will receive a 2.5% across-the-board increase in their salaries, administrative support 3.5%, campus police 5%, and teachers, librarians, nurses, and counselors 3%. The total cost to taxpayers of the pay increases will be $12,495,868.
In other words, CISD taxpayers will have to pay $12.5 million in new taxes in order to give every single CISD employee a substantial increase in compensation well over and above any cost of living increase.
For centuries, government salaries in the United States were far below private sector salaries, but taxpayers rewarded long-term government employees for their work with excellent benefits, particularly strong health insurance and retirement packages. Since approximately 2003, government salaries now outpace private sector salaries in the same or similar jobs, but government employees continue to receive far strong benefits packages than the private sector.
It’s a new world, one in which the economic incentive for most people is to leave the private sector altogether and become wards of the state.