Image: The Montgomery County Commissioners Court voted unanimously to adopt a Fiscal Year 2020 Budget at the “effective tax rate,” meaning that the Court would not raise property taxes on the citizens of Montgomery County. From left to right, Precinct 4 County Commissioner James Metts, Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack, Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough (The “People’s Judge”), Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, and Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador.
Conroe, September 4 – Lightning figuratively struck the Montgomery County Commissioners Court on September 4, 2019, when all five members voted in favor of an “effective tax rate” Fiscal Year 2020 Budget, which, for the first time in history, does not raise property taxes on the citizens of Montgomery County. The vote was unanimous and included Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough (The “People’s Judge”), Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack, and Precinct 4 County Commissioner James Metts.
Commissioners Court meeting, September 4, 2019, 9:30 a.m. All Court members were physically present.
The Golden Hammer‘s rating system follows the Platform of the Republican Party of Texas.
The Golden Hammer‘s ratings measure Commissioners Court votes that affect spending in comparison to the provisions of the Republican Party of Texas Platform. Points are good. The number of points depends upon the amount of money involved in each vote.
The Commissioners Court, all of whom claim to be Republicans, violated the Republican Party Platform on almost every vote during the March 26 meeting. They violated Plank 144 in particular, which provides:
“144. Government Spending: Government Spending is out of control at the federal, state, and local levels, and action is needed.”
The editorial staff of this newspaper sincerely hopes that Plank 144 is simple enough that even the members of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court might understand it.
While a series of votes actually comprised the adoption of the Fiscal Year 2020 Budget in the formal meeting of the Commissioners Court, they’re all boiled down to one critical decision: the Commissioners Court didn’t raise property taxes on Montgomery County citizens when they adopted the Fiscal Year 2020 Budget which will total $336,572,225 in expenditures, down from $344,381,573 in expenditures from the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget. The Commissioners Court set the ad valorem property tax rate at $0.4475 per $100 valuation, which is a reduction from the $0.4667 per $100 valuation rate of the current Fiscal Year 2019.
Readers should not compare the spending levels of the two total budgets, because the Commissioners Court adopted some new accounting measures to exclude “pass-through” expenditures items, such as the Joe Corley Jail Facility, from the budget entirely. Nevertheless, the Commissioners Court held spending as low as they could without applying proper zero-based budgeting techniques to the entire process. Without such methods, the Commissioners Court will likely never be able to achieve real spending reductions.
The vote was the most important vote of the year and counts for 2,500 ratings points, in keeping with the methodology of this newspaper from previous years. The vote was unanimous.
Two people and one methodology led to the magnificent result more than any others. Keough showed enormous leadership in setting a positive working tone for the Commissioners Court to deliberate in an open and transparent fashion. Noack exhibited a level of preparation to discuss the Budget which challenged County Department Directors to have to justify many of their proposed expenditures. Noack also crafted a bond defeasance program which save more than $7 million off of the debt service portion of the Budget. Noack receives a 2,000 point bonus for his outstanding preparation and work on the Budget.
The new methodology, which the Court implemented aggressively, was to place many programs, which particular Commissioners Court members favored, under those individual Commissioners’ Departmental Budgets rather than within the County government’s General Fund.
Clearly, next year’s goal should be to achieve a one percent (1%) or greater spending reduction from the current budget.
Ratings for Commissioners Court meeting, September 4, 2019:
KEOUGH 2,500/2,500. Grade A+.
MEADOR 2,500/2,500. Grade A+.
RILEY 2,500/2,500. Grade A+.
NOACK 4,500/2,500. Grade A+.
METTS 2,500/2,500. Grade A+.
The following are the cumulative scores for Fiscal Year 2019, which began October 1, 2018.
KEOUGH 7,368/6,761. Grade A+.
MEADOR 1,858/7,074. Grade F.
RILEY 88/7,074. Grade F.
NOACK 7,088/7,074. Grade A+.
METTS 2,333/6,761. Grade F.
The citizens must remain vigilant.