Conroe, April 8 – After Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack and Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark complained about the failure of County Judge Craig Doyal’s and County Auditor Phyllis Martin’s so-called “Budget Packet” to include requested reductions in County government spending at the March 28, 2017, Montgomery County Commissioners Court meeting, Noack and Clark were able to include a request for recommendations for spending reductions in the new “Budget Packet” which the Commissioners Court will consider on Tuesday, April 11. The “Budget Packet” contains the instructions to each Montgomery County Department for submitting proposed budgets and information for the “budget hearings” for the Fiscal Year 2018 County Budget.
Doyal has made clear that he supports increases in County spending and will not cooperate with efforts to reduce spending or look for any efficiencies or reductions in waste. Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley and Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador have joined Doyal in their War Against the Taxpayers, although recently Riley did join Noack and Clark in approving a 20% property tax homestead exemption. Doyal very reluctantly read the tea leaves and followed along after it was clear there were three votes on the Commissioners Court to pass the maximum homestead exemption.
The Budget Packet which Doyal and Martin provided to the Commissioners Court on March 28 merely called for each County Department to provide a “wish list” of expenditures for their departments. Doyal’s and Martin’s proposed packet contained no requirements for departmental justifications for current spending. Doyal, Martin, Riley, and Meador have eschewed “zero-based budgeting” even though the Republican Party of Texas and the Republican National Party have stated support for such budget methods in their Party Platforms.
In an exclusive interview with The Golden Hammer, Clark said, “I’m really happy with the work Commissioner Noack and I are doing to reduce County spending. We’re working really hard to get there. I understand that the citizens and taxpayers have far too long been overtaxed and taxes are ever increasing. In order to cut taxes, we have to cut spending. We’ve got to all pull together and tighten our belts and find unnecessary spending in the budget. While I feel there are some departments that won’t be able to achieve a 5% reduction goal, I hope that all departments, excluding law enforcement, will do their part to find a more streamlined and efficient budget.”
The Clark-Noack revised Budget Packet reads as follows:
“Commissioner’s Court focus on the 2018 budget is to provide tax relief for the citizens of Montgomery County. The court has a adopted a 20% Homestead Exemption and seeks a reduction in spending to meet this commitment. The court requests departments prepare the 2018 FY budget request with a 5% REDUCTION from the 2017 adopted budget…The Court recognizes the important of public safety and understands the need to continue to invest in the resources of the Sheriff’s Department. The Court asks you review your budget and identify opportunities to reduce the operational budget, providing for more resources to be dedicated to licensed peace officers.”
The Citizens Budget Committee, a group of private conservative activist citizens, has been working on line-by-line County spending reductions in the Montgomery County Budget and intends to present its full report in early June. That Committee has been working towards $100 million in County spending reduction out of the $377 million Fiscal Year 2017 spending budget. Those spending reductions would actually be quite easy to find without any reduction in County services whatsoever. The Committee has also set as a goal to increase law enforcement funding substantially, perhaps by as much as $40 million, and to establish a permanent capital and road and bridge fund, so that the County will not need to incur debt financing for capital projects.
Citizens Budget Committee Vice Chairman Bill O’Sullivan said, “In 2010, the citizens of this County declared they only wanted spending to grow by population growth and inflation. This declaration was an affirmative vote by 93% of voters in the Republican Primary who passed a nonbonding referendum. It was a clear mandate from the people. We need to get back to that level of growth by inflation and population from the 2009 budget. We might not be able to get there this year but we should point for a place near there in the near future. This will require reviewing staffing, salaries, and benefits versus what’s occurring in the private sector and in other counties in a similar position. That’s when we’ll be serious about spending.”
Montgomery County Republican voters adopted that referendum to set a ceiling of County spending growth at the level of population growth and inflation in the 2010 Republican Primary Election. Voters statewide adopted an almost identical referendum in 2012, also by a 93% affirmative vote. Since that time, however, under the leadership of Doyal and Meador, the Montgomery County budget has grown to a point that this year – Fiscal Year 2017 – the budget is $54 million more than the maximum level of growth which Republican voters established.
On February 28, 2017, the Montgomery County GOP Executive Committee voted decisively to endorse a proposal to cut significantly County spending overall, to adopt a 20% homestead exemption for County property taxes, and to increase funding for the law enforcement departments within the County government. Republican Precinct 50 Chairman Reagan Reed, elected to the Republican Executive Committee in the 2016 Republican Primary Election, authored and proposed the resolution at the meeting. The resolution passed by a decisive margin.
The proposals of the County GOP Executive Committee tracked the overall County government spending reduction with a law enforcement funding increase towards which the Citizens Budget Committee has been working during since December as citizens have studied the County budget and reduced spending on a line-by-line basis. In recent press releases and during the February 28 Commissioners Court meeting, Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal has made clear he seeks more government spending rather than less. Reed is an active member of the Citizens Budget Committee and has also served as its General Administration Subcommittee Chairman.
Sheriff Rand Henderson and Chief Deputy Ken Culbreath of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office have both attended school to implement “zero-based budgeting” within the Sheriff’s Department and have made clear that they support this budget method for their budget and operations.
Hopefully, in the near future, Doyal, Riley, and Meador will join the efforts to reduce Montgomery County government spending. If Montgomery County, one of the most conservative and Republican counties in the United States, cannot show some leadership by making substantial reductions in government spending, it is unlikely that any jurisdiction – local, state, or federal – will ever cut spending, thereby sending the United States into an eventual fiscal crisis. In a 1996 speech in College Station, Texas, United States Senator Phil Gramm (R-Texas) warned Texans as well as all Americans how vital real government spending reductions are in order to avert such a fiscal crisis.
Noack was unavailable for comment.