Sunglasses, bullets, and storks: Montgomery County Hospital District raises taxes despite enormous cash reserve

Sunglasses, bullets, and storks: Montgomery County Hospital District raises taxes despite enormous cash reserve

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Conroe, September 11 – The Montgomery County Hospital District (MCHD) voted to increase taxes on Montgomery County citizens by 3.51% during Fiscal Year 2020, which begins on October 1, 2019.  In a meeting which had some of the pandemonium reminiscent of the embarrassing Nicol Huff-Starlett Curry era from 2000 to 2003, MCHD’s Board voted 4 to 2 to adopt a bloated budget of $62.8 million with a tax rate of $0.0599 per $100 valuation.

The “effective tax rate,” meaning the tax rate at which, after increases in property tax appraisals, taxes of the average taxpayer in Montgomery County would stay the same is $0.0569 per $100 valuation.

Directors Bob Bagley and Georgette Whatley voted against the Budget and against the increased tax levels of MCHD.

During the meeting, Bagley tried to propose some spending cuts, including buying bullets. Justin Chance, an at-large director, commented during the discussion, “It’s hard to justify a hospital district buying bullets.”

Bagley argued, “We don’t need guns and so we don’t need to train with guns.”

It became clear, however, that three members of the Board, Chris Grice, Mark Cole, and Sandy Wagner, just didn’t want to spend the time to go through expenditures to determine whether they could save taxpayers some money, even though Grice acknowledged that, as to the bullets, “That’s not our mission.”

MCHD Director Chris Grice voted to spend tax dollars on Oakley sunglasses for employees and bullets for a hospital district.

Cole, who appeared as though he were ready for nap, said, “This level of detail isn’t for the full board. The board can’t look at each individual line item and pass on it.”

Bagley responded, “This is for the full board.” Some of the expenditures Bagley wanted removed from the budget were Oakley sunglasses for an entire team of Emergency Medical Service workers.

Bagley attempted to remove those offensive items, totaling $69,000, out of a $120,000 budget for “tactical equipment.” The Board voted 3 to 3, with Grice, Cole, and Wagner voting against an amendment to reduce the budget by that amount. Therefore, Bagley’s attempt to save taxpayers some money failed. Bagley, Chance, and Whatley voted for Bagley’s amendment. Director Brad Spratt failed to appear for the meeting.

Whatley then attempted to reduce MCHD’s tax rate to the effective tax rate by reducing, by $1.6 million, the amount of cash the district has accumulated in a “catastrophic reserve.” That reserve has over $5 million in it and is to cover disaster situations such as the Harvey storm. Whatley made the point, however, that even during Harvey, MCHD only had catastrophic expenditures in the range of $750,000.

Grice, who apparently has no understanding of the source of the cash and taxes which come into MCHD, repeatedly said during the meeting, “We’ve given back in the past two years,” referring to reductions in MCHD’s accumulated cash reserves in order to allow the Board to reduce its tax rate. What Grice clearly doesn’t understand is that those cash reserves are the taxpayers’ money! [Publisher’s Hint: Readers may find the true source of all of the money that comes as ‘tax dollars’ in the minds of many elected servants, such as Grice, at the bottom of this article.] 

MCHD Chief Financial Officer Brett Allen admitted MCHD also has cash surplus sufficient to operate MCHD for 5 months at present. Clearly Allen and Grice both felt as though those funds were MCHD’s to keep rather than giving the taxpayers any break whatsoever.

Interestingly, Director Sandy Wagner complained about the proposal to adopt the “effective tax rate.” Wagner said, “We’ve already agreed on what tax rate we should adopt.” Bagley rapidly fired back, “No, we have not!” The Golden Hammer  is not aware of the secret meeting to which Wagner made reference.

The terribly-run meeting ended, without mercy, when Grice, Wagner, Cole, and Chance voted to increase taxes and protect what they believe is “their” giant cache of cash.

The mighty Shoebill Stork.

 

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