Conroe, September 11 – The Montgomery County Office of Court Administration is headed towards a major budget shortfall through the end of Fiscal Year 2019, which ends on September 30, 2019. Montgomery County Auditor Rakesh Pandey told the Montgomery County Commissioners Court on September 10 that he anticipates a shortfall of funds in the range of $400,000.
Budget Director Amanda Carter explained to the Commissioners Court that the Office of Court Administration is a “department [which] is a bucket of money for Indigent Defense and CPS cases.” Carter told the meeting participants that most of the shortfall comes from spending more money on indigent criminal defense than the Office of Court Administration had projected.
The Indigent Defendant fund has an annual budget currently of $7.5 million. As of September 10, 2019, only $31,000 is left in unspent budget outlays, which will clearly be insufficient for the remainder of the month of September.
The issue arose during a discussion by the Auditor of an expenditures summary report, which he must provide to the Commissioners Court each month under the Texas Local Government Code. Since the Commissioners Court places the report on the secretive “consent” agenda for every meeting, there is usually no discussion and the members of the Commissioners Court are unaware of the report’s contents, even though it’s attached to the public agenda for each meeting.
Pandey and Carter specifically requested that the Commissioners Court remove the expenditure summary report from the “consent” agenda and place it on the “open” agenda for the purpose of notifying the Commissioners Court openly about the shortfall.
Pandey said, “One of the departments doesn’t have sufficient funds to run through the ends of the year…Next Commissioners Court we’ll have to look at ways to fund the department for the rest of the [fiscal] year.”
Pandey and Carter told the Commissioners Court that they’ll “look for unused budgets funds from other departments.” Unfortunately, the Commissioners Court has spent almost all contingency funds available in the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget.
410th District Judge Jennifer Robin appeared during the meeting and explained that the Board of District Judges discovered the shortfall yesterday and immediately notified Precinct 3 Montgomery County Commissioner James Noack after discussing the situation with Pandey.