Conroe, October 3 – Political activist and Texas Tea Party Patriots PAC Treasurer Bill O’Sullivan blasted the Montgomery County Commissioners Court for their practice of permitting County Departments to rollover unspent funds without fetters.
O’Sullivan noted that “some funds needs to be rolled over.” He provided the examples of two accounts where rollovers of funds from one budget year to the next are appropriate. In those instances where funds are encumbered already, it makes sense to permit the rollover. Encumbered funds are funds for projects that have begun but for which not all of the budgeted funds are yet spent, because the project is not yet complete and will continue in the following fiscal year.
Where O’Sullivan objected to rollovers are those instances where a County Department didn’t spend funds and “there’s no direction to it” with respect to how the Department will spend those funds. The greatest problem in that regard arises with the four County Commissioners, especially Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador who has accumulated a gigantic rollover fund balance which he uses to spend funds unfettered by budgeting or oversight from the Commissioners Court.
By just the end of May, 2017, Meador’s transfers from his “slush fund” had exceeded $5.1 million. After this newspaper began reporting Meador’s transfers, he slowed them down, although his total “slush funds” for Fiscal Year 2017 exceeded $7 million, almost the amount of the entire budget for his Precinct 1 Commissioners Department for a full fiscal year.
The purpose of a detailed and orderly budget process is to provide the Commissioners Court and the citizens a method of accountability. There are specific requirements for all budgeting methods within the Texas Local Government Code. Only in cases of genuine emergency may a County government deviate from those procedures.
Montgomery County’s government operates a bit differently. The Commissioners Court regularly declares a state of emergency every two weeks to allow themselves to transfer previously-budgeted funds without any constraints. With these rolled over “slush funds” that have no fetters upon where a Department might spend them, there simply is no accountability.
O’Sullivan concluded, “You put money in your budget and spend it. If you don’t spend it, you reduce your new budget for the coming year…It’s a matter of fiscal responsibility.”
These slush funds have cost the taxpayers more than $13 million per year just for the four Commissioners Precinct Departments alone. That’s a lot of money.