Montgomery County Budget: let’s reveal the magic budget number, Keough-Pandey-Carter bring end to Doyal-Martin gamesmanship

Montgomery County Budget: let’s reveal the magic budget number, Keough-Pandey-Carter bring end to Doyal-Martin gamesmanship

Image: The truth.

Conroe, July 14 (Bastille Day) – If the Fiscal Year 2020 Budget for the Montgomery County Government is higher than $361,106,553.17, then Mark Keough, Charlie Riley, James Noack, James Metts, and Mike Meador have imposed a TAX INCREASE on Montgomery County citizens, regardless of whatever deceptive terminology they may choose about “tax rates” or “tax decrease.”

Unfortunately, the preliminary budget, which Budget Director Amanda Carter has proposed is $5,547,258.83 higher than that number.

What the number, $361,106,553.17, represents is the “effective tax rate,” which is the tax rate multiplied by the average property tax appraisal increase on existing Montgomery County property subject to property taxes to yield the same amount of taxes which the average Montgomery County taxpayer has paid under the current budget. In other words, that budget amount is the amount the County government could spend which would require you to pay no more than your current County government tax bill, if you are the average taxpayer in our community.

Here’s how one gets to that number. First, Montgomery County Tax Assessor-Collector Tammy McRae had to provide a preliminary evaluation of how high property tax appraisals increased on properties other than new properties. There’s no question that new properties help all of us, because they contribute to the collection of taxes and reduce the burden on the already existing properties subject to tax. It’s critical to note that Carter made clear on Tuesday, July 9, 2019, during a Commissioners Court meeting, that during the past year, the Montgomery Central Appraisal District (MCAD), under the leadership of pro-tax Commissioner Meador, focused the property tax appraisal increases on residential property and personal property rather than on business properties.

It’s critical to note that Carter made clear on Tuesday, July 9, 2019, during a Commissioners Court meeting, that during the past year, the Montgomery Central Appraisal District, under the leadership of pro-tax Commissioner Meador, focused the property tax appraisal increases on residential property and personal property rather than on business properties.

Since Meador and MCAD have aggressively raised property tax appraisals during the past year, Carter’s preliminary budget of $366,653,812 is $5,547,258.83 higher than the number which represents an identical amount of taxes for the average Montgomery County citizen. Carter called the lower tax rate in her preliminary budget, 44.57 cents per $100 valuation, a “tax decrease,” but, in fact, it’s actually a tax increase due to property tax appraisal increases.

Now, it’s important to remember that Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough, “The People’s Judge,” repeatedly promised during his campaign for County Judge in 2018 that he would never allow County government spending to increase above “the effective rate.” As Keough explained with charts, graphs, and advertisements during his campaign, he wanted to keep the amount of taxes which the average taxpayer pays at par without greater increases.

The true test of whether Keough is actually “The People’s Judge” will come when we see whether he votes for spending above $361,106,553.17. In other terminology, the true test of whether Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack votes for a liberal pro-spending budget will come when we see whether he votes for spending above $361,106,553.17. It’s important to note that citizens must assess their individuals votes, because the vast likelihood is that Riley, Metts, and Meador will shove through a budget with a tax increase with their three votes, although there’s one very interesting catch!

Texas Local Government Code Section 81.006(b) provides, “A county tax may be levied at any regularly scheduled meeting of the court when at least four members of the court are present.” In other words, if Keough is true to his word, and he sees that the County Commissioners Court is about to adopt a tax rate which will raise taxes, i.e., is above the effective rate of 43.58 cents per $100 valuation, Keough should walk out of the Commissioners Court meeting and so should Noack!

Texas Local Government Code Section 81.006(b) provides, “A county tax may be levied at any regularly scheduled meeting of the court when at least four members of the court are present.” In other words, if Keough is true to his word, and he sees that the County Commissioners Court is about to adopt a tax rate which will raise taxes, i.e., is above the effective rate of 43.58 cents per $100 valuation, Keough should walk out of the Commissioners Court meeting and so should Noack!

In other words, even if Keough and Noack are a minority of two votes out of five on the Commissioners Court, they could prevent a tax increase by walking out of the Commissioners Court meeting and refusing to return without a tax rate which produces property taxes par with those during Fiscal Year 2019. (It presents an interesting quandary under the Texas Open Meetings Act, but it most assuredly would be a quandary worth testing. For example, if one of the other three Commissioners were merely to announce publicly in a press release that he will vote to lower the tax rate below or equal to the effective rate, then his open promise to the world would likely not constitute the walking quorum which the Texas Open Meetings Act prohibits.)

In other words, even if Keough and Noack are a minority of two votes out of five on the Commissioners Court, they could prevent a tax increase by walking out of the Commissioners Court meeting and refusing to return without a tax rate which produces property taxes par with those during Fiscal Year 2019. (It presents an interesting quandary under the Texas Open Meetings Act, but it most assuredly would be a quandary worth testing. For example, if one of the other three Commissioners were merely to announce publicly in a press release that he will vote to lower the tax rate below or equal to the effective rate, then his open promise to the world would likely not constitute the walking quorum which the Texas Open Meetings Act prohibits.)

There’s a positive, which County Judge Keough, County Auditor Rakesh Pandey, and Carter have already delivered to the taxpayers. In previous budget years, terminated County Auditor Phyllis Martin (who appropriately now works as the Chief of Staff for corrupt Precinct 4 Commissioner Metts) and disgraced former County Judge Craig Doyal would play games with the total County government expenditure budget by lowering the amount of money shown in the budget from “pass-through” expenditures.

A “pass-through” expenditure is a budget item for which the County provides services, which cost money, but then a third-party reimburses the County entirely. Examples of “pass-through” expenditures include the Joe Corley Jail Facility, which the County government leases to The Geo Group, a federal contractor, the law enforcement services the County provides to The Woodlands Township under a contract with that government entity, and the County government’s mental health facility, for which the County receives 100% reimbursement.

In past years, Martin and Doyal would put the Corley facility’s budget at approximately $14 million to $15 million when, in fact, they’d have to do budget amendments to increase the actual expenditures and reimbursement closer to $27 million each year. By showing lower numbers, however, Martin and Doyal were able to present false budget amounts to the public.

Keough, Pandey, and Carter have made clear that they will disclose the full amounts of “pass-throughs” in the County Budget from here forward, which is a major improvement in governmental transparency.

The Golden Hammer will run a story this coming week about the true impact of “pass-throughs” on citizen vigilance with respect to the Montgomery County Budget.

If you’re wondering where the Citizens Budget Committee fits within all of these issues, you may recall that the Citizens Budget Committee Chairman Jon Bouche told the Commissioners Court that his group would let the “experts,” ostensibly the members of the Commissioners Court, do their own budget this year with the goal that they would achieve a 1% spending reduction, which would yield a Fiscal Year 2020 Budget at $340,937,757, down from the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget of $344,581,573. Obviously, in that regard, the Commissioners Court hasn’t come close.

As long as the Commissioners Court fails to conduct zero-based budgeting but continues to do baseline budgeting, and as long as the Commissioners Court sits back and entirely relies upon Carter, a government bureaucrat, to handle the entire detailed examination of the budget, Mark Keough, Charlie Riley, James Noack, James Metts, and Mike Meador will abjectly fail to fulfill their duty to the citizens. In reality, they’ve seemed to have shown little “expertise” in anything but obfuscation and propaganda.

Of course, to be fair to Mark Keough, this budget is his first. Let’s see if he is “The People’s Judge” or someone else’s. The number, $361,106,553.17, is certainly the first level of the test, even if it still represents a failure in reducing spending or getting a genuine handle on the County government Budget.

 

 

Don Martin’s Fester Bester Tester has become the poster child for the Montgomery County government’s budget processes.

 

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