Conroe, September 8 – Montgomery County Sheriff Rand Henderson just barely squeaked by with approval from the Montgomery County Commissioners Court at its regular August 28, 2018, meeting to hire ten (10) new patrol deputies with funds he saved by not spending his full budget during Fiscal Year 2018. During the so-called “budget process,” the Sheriff had requested twenty-three (23) patrol deputies, particularly needed in East Montgomery County.
In the $344 million County government budget for Fiscal Year 2019, which included massive salary increases for the members of the Commissioners Court and more than $16 million of increased spending on a variety of “wish list” items for County departments, the Commissioners Court only funded one new crime scene investigator and an evidence technician as new positions for the Sheriff’s Office, despite the fact that Henderson led the only County Department that actually proposed a lower operational budget than in the previous Fiscal Year as a result of the zero-based budgeting methodology Henderson and his Finance Carol Thompson led the Department to utilize.
Sheriff Henderson discussed the Sheriff’s Office’s patrol officer shortfall, after the Montgomery County Commissioners Court rejected his budget request, when he spoke to the Montgomery County Tea Party on Monday, August 20. “We’re still 82 deputies short, but the men and women of the Sheriff’s Office are stepping up and getting the job done,” Henderson told the crowd.
As Henderson explained, during his first year in office in 2017, the Sheriff’s Office didn’t ask for operational funds but did ask for personnel. During this second year, for Fiscal Year 2019, the Sheriff’s Office actually cut more than $708,000 from the current Fiscal Year’s operational budget, but asked for a number of patrol officers, managers, and support staff in order to reduce the enormous shortfall the Sheriff’s Office 2018 Workload Analysis identified. “The Workload Analysis, which we subject to national peer review, found that our Patrol Divisions are 82 deputies short…We have approximately 500 deputies of which 300 are assigned to patrol duties, with 1 sergeant to every 5 deputies,” the Sheriff said.
After the Commissioners Court rejected Henderson’s entire request for additional patrol officers and support staff for them, the Sheriff came back to the Court at the regular meeting to ask whether he could utilize carryover funds he had saved from this year’s budget to hire the very sorely needed peace officers. County Commissioners Jim Clark (Precinct 4) and James Noack (Precinct 3) supported the Sheriff’s request.
Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, who is at war with law enforcement in Montgomery County because they haven’t supported his bid for re-election, and Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador, who consistently votes against law enforcement in the Commissioners Court, both voted against the Sheriff’s request to use his own department’s funds to hire the ten new officers. County Judge Craig Doyal broke the tie and voted in favor of the Sheriff’s funding request, which would not impact the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget or tax rate at all.
While the cost of the new officers will be $1.3 million, Henderson recommend the use of “unused salary expenses from FY18.” Sheriff Henderson explained “I want to open a cadet class so there will be a positive variance.
Meador and Riley did vote to permit Henderson to use $325,000 for unexpected pharmacy expenses in the Montgomery County Jail. In other words, Riley and Meador supported giving medication to incarcerated individuals but refused to vote for public safety for Montgomery County citizens outside of the Jail.