Image: The ghosts at Disney Land’s Haunted Mansion are portraying some employees of the Montgomery County government.
Conroe, February 1 – The Montgomery County Commissioners Court came very close to saving taxpayers over $1 million in the annual budget by closing vacant positions and sweeping the budgeted funds for those positions into the County government’s contingency fund. Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack made the motion, which seemed to enjoy support at least from Precinct 4 Commissioner James Metts. The motion died for lack of a second eventually, however, for the reasons which follow.
As of December 14, 2018, there were 27 positions vacant which the General Fund of the County government would support. Of the 27 vacant positions, the Commissioners Court had actually created four (4) during the August, 2018, budget workshops in the following Departments: Emergency Management, Elections, Forensics, and IT.
Average positions vacant in December had been vacant for 90.9 days. The taxpayers paid taxes of $266,352.15 for the vacant positions so far during Fiscal Year 2019, which began October 1, 2018.
The Library Department had four of the vacancies. The Library Department trended higher as the last quarter of 2018 ensued. According to Carter, the Library could not find qualified candidates for the positions.
Precinct 3 County Commissioner Noack said, “If you can’t hire someone within 90 days, then you probably don’t need to have the position open.” Noack added, “I’d like to make a motion to close all of those positions but allow the Department Directors to come back to the Commissioners Court if they want to hire somebody for them…The ones that are vacant 90 days need to be closed.”
Noack said, “It’s a problem as long as I’ve been on this Court that people are asking for funds in their budgets and then keeping those positions vacant.”
Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough responded, “I would agree” but he argued for slowing the process of eliminating the positions down to wait until the next Commissioners Court “that we don’t cut off” new hires about to occur.
Noack said “I’d like to stick with the motion I have.”
Keough asked if there was a second to Noack’s motion.
Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador, the most liberal free spender on the Commissioners Court, agreed with Keough and sought to delay cutting off the vacancies.
Keough expressed, “I do think it’s needs to be cleaned…But we need to give people [Department Directors] some warning.”
Carter explained that, as of December 14, 2018, the Library had four positions open for 90 days or more: Animal Control has an Office Supervisor position, the Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace had a Court Clerk position, and the Animal Shelter had a Vet Tech position all open.
Jeri Williams, the Library Director whose goal is always to spend more and more money on the outdated Memorial Library System, vehemently argued before the Commissioners Court against their eliminating the four vacant positions in her Department which have now been vacant more than 120 days!
No one, and that means literally no one, on the Commissioners Court has examined whether County government operations suffered any disruption whatsoever from the vacancies.
Precinct 4 County Commissioner James Metts asked the wise question “Is it possible to sweep the funds into contingency now but leave the positions open?” Carter said that was her recommendation.
Noack said, “By waiting, we are continuing to perpetuate the same inaction.”
Keough argued against Metts’ and Noack’s suggestion to sweep the funds while leaving the positions open. Keough “begged the Court” to delay one meeting.
Noack’s motion died for lack of a second after Keough begged for a two-week delay.