Montgomery County Commissioners Court to address long-term vacancies for which taxpayers bear burden

Montgomery County government vacancies of over 90 days in non-law-enforcement departments. Source: Montgomery County Budget Office.

Conroe, February 11 – Montgomery County taxpayers have borne the tax burden for nine (9) ghost positions which have been vacant for more than ninety (90) days inside of the Montgomery County government. The taxpayer-carrying cost of those positions is $655,647.75 per year for positions which are obviously unnecessary and haven’t caused any of the services of functions of the six departments to fail.

At the Tuesday, February 12, 2019, Commissioners Court meeting, the Court will “Consider, discuss, and take action on positions that have been vacant over 90 days as of January 25, 2019.” The Commissioners Court almost eliminated this spending problem during the January 29, 2019, meeting, but County Judge Mark Keough insisted upon a two-week delay.

The Information Technology Department has a new position with $115,654.07 which the Department managers have never filled. The Library Department has one position, a Branch Manager, which has been vacant for 315 days, and a Coordinator-Programs, which has been vacant for 290 days. The Deputy Treasurer position, in which disgraced former County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport tried to place former County Judge Craig Doyal’s daughter with a significant promotion and pay increase, has now been vacant for 98 days, as of January 25, 2019.

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 on January 29. 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, according to County Budget Director Amanda Carter. 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.

 

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