Image: Precinct 2 County Commissioner candidate Gregory Parker.
Magnolia, July 25 – Both Brian Dawson and Gregory Parker, the two challengers running against incumbent Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlier Riley, contacted The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, to discuss the Citizens Budget Committee Report, which issued on Friday, July 21, 2017. When this newspaper contacted Riley for comment, however, the County Commissioner didn’t respond.
Parker issued a press release early Monday, July 24, in which he said:
“Our community is the fastest growing in the nation with a population increase of 7.8% and a growth rate 11 times higher than the national average. Yet our County spending has grown from $89 million to $377 annual, or a 424% increase, since 2000. I applaud all of the members of the Citizens Budget Committee for their hard work. I have reviewed the Citizens Budget Committee Report and believe it to be a wonderful foundational start to reducing spending while maintaining county government’s core function. Therefore, I call upon Commissioner Riley to lead in pushing for some of the identified and targeted spending reductions outlined in the Budget Committee’s report, for the good of the residents of Precinct Two and of Montgomery County. Because we need real change!”
Dawson provided the following statement to this newspaper on Monday afternoon concerning the Citizens Budget Committee Report:
“There is little question Montgomery County’s budget increases have significantly outpaced the county’s growth, while our law enforcement and infrastructure needs have been under prioritized.“When a group of citizens engage in the process of self governance to the degree of dedication these individuals have, it is the obligation of all elected officials to give their recommendations the highest consideration. To not do so is both a slap in the face to their constituency and a virtual admission of short-sighted hard-headedness on the part of the official.“Leadership is about making the tough decisions. Sometimes the tough decision is considering a different perspective. Montgomery County needs leaders who will consider the perspective that is best for the residents and taxpayers of our county, no matter the origin.”
Several County Department Directors, including elected officials, contacted members of the Citizens Budget Committee over the past four days to discuss details of the report.
The Citizens Budget Committee issued its proposed Fiscal Year 2018 Budget in a 36-page report provided to the members of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court on Friday, July 21, 2017. The proposed budget includes total expenditures of $307,497,321, plus $28,968,161 for “internal service funds” (employee benefits, casualty and liability payments) for a total Fiscal Year 2018 Budget of $336,465,482, a reduction of approximately $41 million from the adopted Fiscal Year 2017 Budget, which the Commissioners Court approved on September 6, 2016, with many dozens of amendments since that time. If the Commissioners Court so chose, the Committee’s proposed Budget would afford a substantial reduction in the County’s tax rate while providing a boost to law enforcement departments to add more “boots on the ground” for law enforcement and public safety.
Serious legal issue with Budget Workshop: County government difficulties
The Montgomery County government has experienced some serious logistical issues over the past 24 hours as a result of a problem with the public notice which County Judge Craig Doyal posted and issued on Friday, July 21, for the budget meeting today. Unlike previous years where the Commissioners Court conducted a so-called “public hearing” concerning the proposed budget, Doyal’s posting only refers to a “Budget Workshop” during which there are no votes included in the agenda on the budget. Somehow, Doyal has proposed voting on the tax rate for the coming Fiscal Year without voting on the budget first, the procedure which the Texas Local Government Code mandates and the Montgomery County Commissioners Court has followed for at least 25 years.
During the 2016 hearing, while Doyal was absent due to his suspension by the Texas Judicial Conduct Commission, Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador wouldn’t allow the public to speak in the “public hearing” but the Commissioners Court voted to adopt the budget anyway.
On Friday, July 14, 2017, County Auditor Phyllis Martin filed her “Proposed Budget” with Montgomery County Clerk Mark Turnbull. That filing triggered a very specific process, beginning with a “public hearing” on the budget which must occur within 10 calendar days after the filing, at the conclusion of which the Commissioners Court must vote on the budget. Since Doyal didn’t issue a meeting agenda for a “public hearing,” however, the Commissioners Court will apparently hold a “workshop” without the legal right to vote on the budget (particularly since no vote on the budget or parts thereof appears on the meeting agenda). At the end of the day yesterday, The Golden Hammer learned that the “Proposed Budget” filing by Martin is not her “Proposed Budget” under these circumstances, but only her “recommended budget,” according to the County Attorney’s Office.
Unfortunately, however, while the County government may want to back off of the filing my Martin of a “Proposed Budget,” the official legal filing with the County Clerk is what it is. Martin filed her “Proposed Budget.” In fact, the Memorandum which Martin filed with the “Proposed Budget” makes her budget filing clear that it is the “Proposed Budget” so the Commissioners Court must hold the “public hearing” on the budget immediately and vote on the “Proposed Budget” by the end of the hearing this week.
Is there any doubt that County Auditor filed her “Proposed Fiscal Year 2018 Budget”?! Below is the cover sheet for her filing with the County Clerk.