Image: Left to right, Sheriff Rand Henderson, Cheree Walker Page, Victoria d’Angelo Tompkins, and Conroe ISD President and County Treasurer Candidate Melanie Pryor Bush, June 23, 2017, at a meeting of the Montgomery County Republican Women.
Conroe, July 20 – Sheriff Rand Henderson’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2018 shows hard work, good planning, and a serious effort to put more boots on the ground to increase public safety in Montgomery County. Although the budget is not a result of a zero-based budgeting approach, there’s a good reason why it’s not.
Sheriff Henderson did a superb job on his proposed budget. His entire leadership team worked very hard with him, but two people deserve special mention. Sheriff’s Office Finance Director worked very hard with Sheriff Henderson and Chief Ken Culbreath to accomplish two objectives for the coming fiscal year.
First, Sheriff Henderson and his team wanted to avoid, as much as possible, asking for an increase in the budget. They did end of asking for a $3,735,952, increase over the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget, as the Commissioners Court has amended it. The biggest amendment for the Sheriff’s Office during this Fiscal Year was to allocate funds for the far more expensive inmate medical services contract, which a special Sheriff’s Office committee recommended. The contract was necessary in order to reduce other burdens on the Jail operations arising from transport of inmates to medical care “off campus” and from mental health services, which have become a major aspect of incarceration facilities across Texas and the United States. Lieutenant Scott Spencer mentioned during the Citizens Academy of the Sheriff’s Department that county jails have become the largest housing institution for people suffering mental illnesses in the United States.
Second, Thompson led the Sheriff’s Office in developing “cost centers” for budgeting purposes rather than the division budgeting which the Sheriff’s Office had utilized previously under former Sheriff Tommy Gage. Thompson and Henderson have explained that the reason they’ve transferred to a “cost center” approach is to enable the Sheriff’s Office to begin “zero-based budgeting” for Fiscal Year 2019, after they will have had a full fiscal year and a full calendar year as well to study precisely what the costs are for the operations of the department. “Cost center” development is a critical step in “zero-based budgeting” in order to examine programs for the direct expenses of each of the program goals and purposes.
An example of a cost center is that the Sheriff’s Office has moved the general Sheriff Administration account budget, which comprised almost half of the department’s expenditures, into breakout accounts, including Patrol East, Patrol West, Patrol South, and several others. By breaking out the costs of those those individual programs Henderson, Culbreath, and Thompson will more easily examine true expenses of patrol operations for the next year’s budget.
The Sheriff’s Office Budget, which Sheriff Henderson has requested for Fiscal Year 2018, is $102,130,513, which includes $15,800,000 of “pass-through” funding from the Joe Corley facility. In other words, $15.8 million of revenue will offset those expenditures.
More Boots on the Ground
Montgomery County’s shortfall of full-time sworn peace officers – policemen – is substantial. The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, conducted a survey of the number of full-time sworn peace officers in each of the law enforcement departments of Montgomery County and concluded that there is a shortfall of over 500 peace officers countywide.
That number is significant, because it represents approximately one-third of the number of officers a community of approximately 562,000, the current County population according to the United States Census Bureau, would need to meet the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s national standard of 2.7 police officers per 1000 population. Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon has long maintained that this community suffers from a significant shortage of police officers.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s latest annual report, Crime in the United States 2015, the average number of sworn peace officers nationwide is 2.7 full-time officers per 1000 population. That statistic does not include part-time officers or reserves.
Montgomery County’s total number of full-time sworn peace officers in its law enforcement departments is 988. The total should be approximately 1,517 in order to be consistent with the FBI’s national average. Montgomery County’s number of full-time peace officers is instead 1.76 per 1000 people rather than the 2.7 it should be.
Recognizing this shortfall, Sheriff Henderson has made clear that he would attempt to recruit additional patrol officers along with appropriate management and support in order to reduce the shortfall of officers in Montgomery County. Therefore, Henderson has proposed a four-year personnel integration plan in order to increase the Sheriff’s Office team by 141 employees by Fiscal Year 2021.
Sheriff Henderson has proposed that for Fiscal Year 2018, his Department would hire 12 patrol deputies, 8 precinct detectives, 1 background investigator, 4 entry-level crime analysts, 1 civilian sergeant, 14 detention officers, and 1 clerk, for a total of 41 new members of the Sheriff’s Office team.
Thompson and Henderson have estimated that one new patrol deputy requires a budget increase of $122,196.52 per year. The following is the breakdown of cost for one new deputy:
Unemployment insurance $207.00
Radio and Computer $4,298.58
TOTAL = $122,196.52.
The breakdowns are different for other positions.
Despite the increase in team power, the Sheriff’s Office found areas in which to reduce spending to offset some of the increases.
In sum, Sheriff Henderson, Director Thompson, and Chief Culbreath have done an outstanding job putting together their first budget proposal.