Conroe, January 20 – Even compared to the federal government which often suffers the most criticism, the Montgomery County government and the Conroe Independent School District have tortured Montgomery County taxpayers with out-of-control spending at unprecedented levels. Mark Keough, the former State Representative who took the oath of office to become Montgomery County Judge on January 1, 2019, has inherited a mess of government spending waste.
During his campaign for County Judge in 2018, Keough brought attention to the fact that, even with slightly reduced tax rates during the past five years, spiraling property tax appraisals (which Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, and former Precinct 3 County Commissioner Ed Chance drove through their Montgomery Central Appraisal District Board of Directors policymaking positions) have resulted in higher government revenue and taxes while offering members of the Commissioners Court the opportunity deceptively to claim they “lowered tax rates.”
In his “Contract with Montgomery County,” Keough has promised:
“a. I will work to reduce the tax rate of the county to account for increases in total property values throughout the county. Appraisal goes up, rate should come down.
“b. I will eliminate wasteful spending in our budget and ensure budget growth stays at or below population growth plus inflation.
“c. I will return any funds that are non-contingency related or are not carried over for unfinished projects to the tax payers via reduction in tax rates.
“d. I will ensure that the spending of public money will be related to the core functions of county government.”
Those changes alone, if Keough were to fulfill his “contractual” promises, would radically reduce the level of spending in the County government, possibly by as much as twenty percent (20%) as Keough’s campaign chart above reflects.
The County government and the Conroe Independent School District (the latter over which Keough has no control but for which he has a wonderful “bully pulpit” as County Judge and a leader by example) are government spending messes
The real spending ceiling or County spending should be precisely what Keough indicated above: restricting the “spending of public money…to the core functions of county government.” Airports, public relations, bloated salaries, convention centers, and economic development have nothing to do with county government’s core functions under the Texas Constitution. In fact, airports, convention centers, and economic development are far more akin to the private sector’s free markets.
Nevertheless, Big Government liberals, such as Craig Doyal or Riley, have sought to spend a floor of increases in amount at least equal to population growth and inflation. In actuality, they’ve really tried to spend as much money as they could possibly spend.
The Republican Party Platform defines the rate of population growth and inflation as a “ceiling.” Even as a ceiling, under Riley and Doyal, and their cohort Meador, spending as exploded like Willy Wonka’s “great glass elevator” bursting through the roof.
For analytical purposes, it’s appropriate to go back as far as the Montgomery County Auditor makes the County government budget publicly available on the County’s website, October 1, 2005.
In 2005, the Commissioners Court adopted a budget of $135,824,382. The population of Montgomery County, according to the United States Census Bureau was 373,445. The Fiscal Year 2019 Budget, which the out-of-control Commissioners Court adopted on October 1, 2018, is $344,381.573, while the population of Montgomery County is now approximately 588,062 from the latest Census Bureau data. Inflation between 2005 and 2018 has been 28.6%, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Taking the population growth between 2005 and 2018, multiplying it by the inflation rate, and then multiplying the product by the 2005 budget (Fiscal Year 2006), one would engage in the following calculation
(588,062/373,445) x 1.286 x $135,824,382 = $275,052,232.
In other words, taking the “ceiling” of population growth and inflation, the Montgomery County government’s total expenditures should not be higher than $275,052,232.
That’s a problem. The Fiscal Year 2019 expenditure budget is $344,381,573. Neither the Commissioners Court nor the two budget officers (terminated County Auditor Phyllis Martin and current Budget Director Amanda Carter) have imposed any fiscal restraint whatsoever.
In the period between 2005 and 2018, the County government’s expenditures have grown 253.55%.
During the same time period, the federal government’s budget grew 54.2%.
The numbers also reveal another point: the Montgomery County government’s expenditure budget is at least $69,329,341 (Excess spending = $344,381,573 – $275,052,232 = $69,329,341) higher than it should be just based on the spending growth during the last 12 years.
…the Montgomery County government’s expenditure budget is at least $69,329,341 (Excess spending = $344,381,573 – $275,052,232 = $69,329,341) higher than it should be just based on the spending growth during the last 12 years.
Conroe Independent School District
In 2012, the earliest year when the Conroe Independent School District makes its spending budget available online, the out-of-control school district spent $434,791,144. According to Conroe ISD, its student enrollment was 53,934 students during the 2012-2013 academic year.
In the current year, Conroe ISD’s expenditure budget is $620,514,769. Their estimated student enrollment is 64,000 students.
Inflation between 2012 and 2018 has been 9.37%, according to the United States Bureau for Labor Statistics.
Therefore, here’s the calculation for the spending growth of Conroe ISD between 2012 and the present. Taking the student enrollment growth between 2012 and 2018, multiplying it by the inflation rate, and then multiplying the product by the 2012 budget (Fiscal Year 2013), one would engage in the following calculation
(64,000/53,934) x 1.0937 x $434,791,144 = $564,282,062.
In other words, taking the “ceiling” of student enrollment growth and inflation, the Conroe ISD’s total expenditures should not be higher than $564,282,062.
In the period between 2012 and 2018, the Conroe ISD’s expenditures have grown 42.7%.
During the same time period, the federal government’s budget grew 15.75%.
The numbers also reveal another point: Conroe ISD’s expenditure budget is at least $56,232,707 (Excess spending = $620,514,769 – $564,282,062 = $56,232,707) higher than it should be just based on the spending growth during the last 6 years.
…Conroe ISD’s expenditure budget is at least $56,232,707 (Excess spending = $620,514,769 – $564,282,062 = $56,232,707) higher than it should be just based on the spending growth during the last 6 years.
Neither Conroe ISD nor the Montgomery County government have discovered any economies of scale. As they’ve grown, they’ve failed to find any efficiencies of spending. As one drills down into the details of the numbers, the expenditures growth is quite a bit worse. Waste, inefficiency, and misplaced priorities clearly harm both. The true victims of both are the citizens (and, as to Conroe ISD, the students.)