Image: The Montgomery County Commissioners Court met for slightly over one hour on Thursday, July 30, 2020, for the Budget Workshop. From left to right on the Commissioners Court are Precinct 4 Commissioner James Metts, Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack, County Judge Mark Keough, Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley, and Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador.
The Golden Hammer Staff Reports
Conroe, July 31 – The Montgomery County Commissioners Court appears poised to pass a “No New Taxes” budget for Fiscal Year 2021 tomorrow morning when the County Judge and four Commissioners resume the Budget Workshop and then move into a formal meeting to adopt the tax rate and budget. The Commissioners Court will likely pass a budget for the second year in a row without increasing taxes on beleaguered Montgomery County taxpayers.
After three days of the Budget Workshop, the Commissioners Court stands ready to pass a budget of approximately $349,058,076.10, according to Budget Office Director Amanda Carter. The only major remaining spending issue, which the Commissioners Court must address Friday morning is how to pay for a major acquisition of law enforcement vehicles, which Montgomery County Sheriff Rand Henderson told the Commissioners Court on Wednesday that he needed to replace some aging vehicles within the Sheriff’s Office’s fleet.
The economic crisis which originated from the government mandated shutdown of the economy, in response to the government-level panic with respect to the Chinese Coronavirus, was very much on the minds of the members of the Commissioners Court in their budget discussions. Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack noted that the United States Department of Commerce announced this morning that the gross domestic product declined by an annual rate of 32.9% during the last quarter which ended June 30.
Meanwhile, the United States Census Bureau announced the grim finding in its latest weekly Household Pulse Survey that 51.1% of households experienced a loss of employment income in the week ended July 21, up from 48.3% four weeks ago. The Dow Jones Industrial Average responded with a 200 point drop yesterday afternoon.
The economic downturn didn’t stop two members of the Commissioners Court from discussing the prospect of substantial salary increases for the already-overpaid County government employees, whose salaries comprise approximately 68% of the County Budget. Noack said, “It really is painful to not be able to give our employees a raise.” Noack has urged across-the-board salary increases almost every budget year, but this year he has led the belt-tightening.
Keough, who had campaigned for office in 2018 on reducing County government spending, revealed his placement of County government employees’ interests above the taxpayers’ concerns, when he concluded the meeting with the comment, “Happy horses win races and we need to keep our employees happy.”