The Golden Hammer Staff Reports
Conroe, May 4 – Montgomery County Commissioners Court members faced the harsh reality of the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget, which will begin on October 1, 2020, in light of the economic devastation government shutdowns and closures have caused in the panicked reaction to the Chinese Coronavirus. “We’ve got a major problem here,” said Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough, as the Commissioners Court, on April 28, 2020, set a broad Budget Policy for the coming Budget process, in which they’ll engage to formulate the spending and taxation plan for the County government.
The discussion began with a cogent presentation from County Budget Director Amanda Carter. Carter noted that week unemployment claims emanating from Montgomery County to the Texas Workforce Commission are more than 25 times what they were before the government shutdowns. Meanwhile, the high spending County government, which has failed to apply the breaks to any spending, even for unnecessary and non-essential programs, such as the Convention Center or County Libraries, has failed to heed the admonishments of Texas Governor Greg Abbott to reduce local government spending drastically in order to ease the tax burden on Texas taxpayers.
Carter predicted that the turnaround for a recession of the magnitude of the one the government has caused is likely at least 10 months, while local taxes will fall due in January, 2021.
The Budget process calendar will change slightly as a result of mandates from the State under Senate Bill 2, which Governor Abbott signed into law in June, 2019. The County Commissioners Court will hold its Budget Workshop during the week of July 27, 2020, with Citizen Input Day on Monday, July 27. The Commissioners Court will vote to adopt the Budget and set the tax rate on August 21, 2020.
Carter admitted to the members of the Court, “We don’t know what the economy is going to do.” But she seemed to part from reality in her likening this government-mandated recession as “small.” Unemployment rates are similar to those of the Great Depression almost one hundred years ago.
Carter briefly discussed department request for COVID-19 spending. “COVID-related funds should be separate because of the CARES Act funding,” Carter said, referring to the $105 million the County government received directly from the federal government.
The County government continues to engage in the ridiculous practice of calling taxes “revenue” even though they are extracted from the pockets of Montgomery County citizens whom they supposedly represent.
Carter and one County Commissioner, Precinct 3’s James Noack, expressed concern that tax collections may sharply dip during the coming year. “The pandemic may not affect certified values but it may affect collections,” Carter said
Noack added, “Mortgage lenders are allowing people to defer payments 3 to 6 months…so we can’t depend on escrow tax payments like we did in the past…Our collection rate will not be the same.” He said further, “One of the biggest developers in south county told me this week that of all of their tenants, they’ve received 30% of their rent.”
Eerily, Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador sounded the most compassionate of all towards Montgomery County taxpayers. “My opinion is don’t come to us and ask for anything…It’s going to be a real different budget session this year,” Meador said. “It’s going to be a 2008 budget session this year.”
Meador further expressed, “We’ve got a lot of people who are in a real bind…It’s time to tighten the belt.”
“We’ve got a lot of people who are in a real bind…It’s time to tighten the belt.” – – Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador, Tuesday, April 28, 2020.
Keough agreed, “You can’t take 90 days out of the budget and not have an impact.”
Carter admitted, “It’s going to be a lean year…We have to see what the people can afford.” (Hopefully, the County Commissioners will show mercy and tax the citizens at a bit less than the citizens can “afford.”)
Always protective of his exorbitant salary, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley said, “We’re going to end up with a budget that we got right now…I don’t think we should worry with the mid-year budget…It should be a real simple budget year.”
The Commissioners Court unanimously approved Carter’s proposed Budget Policy without review or discussion of its contents.