Salaries continue to spike Montgomery County government spending, constitute community embarrassment

Salaries continue to spike Montgomery County government spending, constitute community embarrassment

Image: “Mohawked” Precinct 3 Montgomery County Commissioner James Noack has focused three of the last four year’s budget sessions on giving himself and other elected servants a giant salary increase. Unfortunately, the County government has failed to focus on spending and property tax reform.

Conroe and The Woodlands, June 19 – Hovering at a gargantuan 58% of the Montgomery County government’s expenditure budget, according to County Budget Director Amanda Carter, salaries continue to spike and serve as an embarrassment. The County Commissioners Court will conduct four days of “budget workshops” on July 30, 2019, through August 2, 2019, but there seems no interest whatsoever in salary reform.

Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack told The Golden Hammer yesterday afternoon, “I am looking at all options and will consider all possibilities for the budget at this time.” Clearly, Noack needs to focus on a substantial reduction in County government spending. That means reducing Fiscal Year 2020 spending below the current budget level.

Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough, the “People’s Judge,” said, “I know what I want to see happen. I ran on the spending issue. It’s unclear at this point what will happen.”

Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, and Precinct 4 County Commissioner James Metts didn’t respond to requests for comments.

Salaries present an enormous problem to Montgomery County taxpayers, because:

  • Elected official salaries are embarrassingly high, since the Commissioners Court has consistently voted itself raises without taking heed of the formal recommendations of their own appointed Salary Study Committee, without taking into account the 2018 Salary Study Survey of the Texas Association of Counties, and without paying attention to the Citizens Budget Committee presented to the Commissioners Court on May 8, 2018.
  • Salaries of almost all non-law enforcement employees of the County government are far above comparable positions in the private sector in the Greater Houston Area, as this newspaper has reported in recent weeks.
  • The County government has over-employed substantially outside of law enforcement functions.
  • The Montgomery County government has one of the most lucrative employee benefits packages among any governmental entity or private company in the United States. County benefits run at approximately 40.3% of salaries. The benefits exceed those offered by almost every Fortunate 500 company. Less than five (5) of the Fortunate 500 companies offer retired employee health benefits, but the Montgomery County government continues to offer that benefit.

The members of the Commissioners Court clearly have no limits to the degree to which they’re willing to vote themselves money.

2016 Salary Study Committee

One of the worst embarrassments Montgomery County citizens suffered was the conduct of the Commissioners Court in the face of the 2016 Salary Study Committee’s report.

In 2016, the Commissioners Court appointed a Salary Study Committee, which venerable former County Human Resources Director Diane Bass chaired. The Bass Committee consisting of five individuals, each of whom a different member of the Commissioners Court appointed, conducted an in-depth study of elected official salaries throughout Texas and compared those salaries, and benefits, with those of the Montgomery County government.

The Bass Committee reported that Montgomery County salaries for all elected officials were far higher than in other counties in Texas, particularly comparable counties such as Fort Bend, Collin, Denton, and Williamson. The Bass Committee recommended against salary increases.

In response to the Bass Committee report, County Judge Craig Doyal and the Montgomery County Commissioners Court during the same meeting after Bass made her presentation ignored the Bass Committee findings, rejected the report, and voted to give themselves a 3% raise nonetheless.

Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, and Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack all voted to give themselves a 3% raise in 2016, even though their own Bass Salary Study Committee recommended directly against such raises and found that the Commissioners Court’s compensation was far too high already.

At the time, Noack had urged that the Commissioners Court vote to give themselves a ten percent (10%) pay raise, an amount which even wild spender Doyal found too extreme.

2018 Texas Association of Counties Salary Survey

Every two years the Texas Association of Counties (TAC) conducts and publishes a detailed salary survey of elected officials in all 254 counties in Texas. TAC is a County-government advocacy organization, so it’s hardly a critic of County government practices. In fact, TAC was one of the TAC Salary Study occurred during the previous Fiscal Year.

TAC’s findings follow, although two Montgomery County elected officials – County Judge Mark Keough and County Attorney B.D. Griffin – have reduced their own salaries voluntarily.

In the 2018 TAC Salary Study, it’s critical to note that Montgomery County’s government expenditures budget was $358,607,211, and it’s (2017) population was 570,934, according to TAC and the United States Census Bureau.

There are ten (10) Texas counties with populations higher than Montgomery County’s population. In the 2018 TAC Salary Study, the following are the top eleven (11) county populations:

  • #1: Harris County (Houston), 4,652,980;
  • #2: Dallas County (Dallas), 2,618,148;
  • #3: Tarrant County (Fort Worth), 2,054,475;
  • #4: Bexar County (San Antonio), 1,958,578;
  • #5: Travis County (Austin), 1,226,968;
  • #6: Collin County (Plano), 969,603;
  • #7: Hidalgo County (Edinburg), 860,661;
  • #8: El Paso County (El Paso), 840,410;
  • #9: Denton County (Denton), 836,210;
  • #10: Fort Bend County (Richmond), 764,828;
  • #11: Montgomery County (Conroe), 570,934.

As the Denton County Auditor observed during a conversation he had with 9th District Judge Phil Grant in October, 2018, Montgomery County’s government goes far beyond the vast majority of county governments in Texas in its activities. Montgomery County’s government has grown just under 300% in spending since 2000, even though population growth has only grown approximately 85% since the turn of the millennium. At the same time, the County government sticks its Big Spending nose into economic development activities, private enterprises, libraries, an airport, and many other functions, with which Texas county governments rarely involve themselves.

The Commissioners Court in the past four years before Keough joined it as County Judge was among the most liberal, pro-government-spending group politicians in Texas.

As a result, Montgomery County’s government is 7th in amount of government expenditures, according to the TAC Salary Survey in 2018:

  • #1: Harris County, expenditures budget, $4,579,880,151;
  • #2: Dallas County, expenditures budget $860,139,908;
  • #3: Travis County, expenditures budget $857,866,478;
  • #4: Bexar County, expenditures budget $791,091,137;
  • #5: Tarrant County, expenditures budget $685,164,854;
  • #6: El Paso County, expenditures budget $394,864,585;
  • #7: Montgomery County, expenditures budget $358,607,221.

TAC made the following findings in its 2018 Salary Survey, with the revision by The Golden Hammer of two salaries – County Judge and County Attorney – to reflect the voluntary reductions County Judge Mark Keough and County Attorney B.D. Griffin have taken during this year.

County Judge Mark Keough

  • #1: Harris County, $190,861;
  • #2: Tarrant County, $182,482;
  • #3: Dallas County, $171,367;
  • #4: Galveston County, $167,400;
  • #5: Bexar County, $166,830;
  • #6: Montgomery County, $154,774 (as of April 3, 2019).

County Commissioner Mike Meador, Charlie Riley, James Noack, James Metts

  • #1: Harris County, $182,562;
  • #2: Tarranty County, $172,482;
  • #3: Montgomery County, 168,807.

While Montgomery County’s Commissioner salaries were embarrassingly high, on September 5, 2018, the Commissioners Court voted themselves a pay raise to $173,871.

County Treasurer Melanie Pryor Bush

  • #1: Dallas County, $153,706;
  • #2: Montgomery County, $135,781.

While Montgomery County’s Treasurer’s salary was embarrassingly high, on September 5, 2018, the Commissioners Court voted the Treasurer a pay raise to $139,854.

County Attorney B.D. Griffin

  • #1: Harris County, $199,160;
  • #2: El Paso County, $180,629;
  • #3: Montgomery County, $179,631 (as of April 3, 2019).

County Clerk Mark Turn bull

  • #1: Tarrant County, $172,482;
  • #2: Harris County, $164,299;
  • #3: Fort Bend County, $129,240;
  • #4: Travis County, $128,944;
  • #5: Montgomery County, $126,189.

While Montgomery County’s County Clerk’s salary was embarrassingly high, on September 5, 2018, the Commissioners Court voted the County Clerk a pay raise to $129,975.

District Clerk Melisa Miller

  • #1: Tarrant County, $172,482;
  • #2: Harris County, $164,299;
  • #3: Travis County, $128,944;
  • #4: Fort Bend County, $126,240;
  • #5: Montgomery County, $126,189.

While Montgomery County’s District Clerk’s salary was embarrassingly high, on September 5, 2018, the Commissioners Court voted the District Clerk a pay raise to $129,975.

Montgomery County Auditor Rakesh Pandey, CPA

  • #1: El Paso County, $211,914;
  • #2: Harris County, $197,018;
  • #3: Travis County, $189,420;
  • #4: Bexar County, $188,658;
  • #5: Tarrant County, $182,482;
  • #6: Galveston County, $174,568;
  • #7: Dallas County, $174,306;
  • #8: Comal County, $157,680;
  • #9: Collin County, $157,622;
  • #10: Brazoria County, $154,114;
  • #11: Fort Bend County, $151,025;
  • #12: Denton County, $148,335:
  • #13: McLennan County, $147,389;
  • #14: Webb County, $142,100;
  • #15: Williamson County, $140,000;
  • #16: Smith County, $139,768;
  • #17: Hidalgo County, $130,000;
  • #18: Lubbock County, $129,540;
  • #19: Midland County, $127,426;
  • #20: Cameron County, $127,296;
  • #21: Jefferson County, $126,587;
  • #22: Montgomery County, $125,000 (as of April 3, 2019).

The fact that Montgomery County’s Auditor is #22 on this list is quite significant. This position is the one and only position mentioned in this entire story for whom the Montgomery County Commissioners Court does not determine the salary level. Rather, the County Auditor works for the Board of District Judges who determine his salary. That difference likely explains the fact that the Montgomery County Auditor’s salary is far more appropriate than any of the other salaries all of which the out-of-control Commissioners Court determines.

Montgomery County Sheriff Rand Henderson

  • #1: Harris County, $199,160;
  • #2: Tarrant County, $182,482;
  • #3: Dallas County, $175,498;
  • #4: Collin County, $167,817;
  • #5: Montgomery County, $162,678.

While Montgomery County’s Sheriff’s salary was embarrassingly high, on September 5, 2018, the Commissioners Court voted the Sheriff a pay raise to $171,158.

Montgomery County Tax Assessor-Collector Tammy McRae

  • #1: Tarrant County, $172,482;
  • #2: Harris County, $164,299;
  • #3: Dallas County, $153,706
  • #4: Montgomery County, $145,564.

While Montgomery County’s Tax Assessor-Collector’s salary was embarrassingly high, on September 5, 2018, the Commissioners Court voted the Tax Assessor-Collector a pay raise to $152,322.

Citizens Budget Committee Salary Survey, May 8, 2018

The Citizens Budget Committee, composed of eleven grassroots conservative citizens who have invested enormous time into studying the Montgomery County government budget, presented a Salary Survey to the Montgomery County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, May 8, 2018, during a regular meeting. The Salary Survey was a 7-page report the entirety of which is printed at the end of this article.

The Committee examined the ten (10) largest counties in Texas in population to determine the annual salary and car allowance for County Commissioners, the position, which under the Texas Constitution is the focus of County government management and operations. The average salary for a County Commissioner of the ten largest counties in Texas was $137,532 at the time of the report. The Montgomery County government, which is the eleventh (11th) largest County in Texas in population, paid County Commissioners $168,808, far higher than the pay County Commissioners should receive in a County of this size population.

In fact, Montgomery County’s exorbitant salaries paid to the County Commissioners made it the third highest paid salaries in Texas, after Harris County and Tarrant County.

The Citizens Budget Committee also examined whether jobs in the private sector in a comparable position are higher or lower than the massive salaries the Montgomery County Commissioners Court pays itself. Shockingly, the job most comparable to a County Commissioner in the private sector, a senior project manager in construction contracting firms, pays only $110,000 per year, or almost $59,000 per year less. Additionally, Montgomery County’s employee benefits for government employees are vastly more lucrative than the employee benefits provided in the ten largest counties in Texas.

The Citizens Budget Committee Salary Survey contained a recommendation that Montgomery County Commissioners should receive no more than $121,772 in salary per year. The Committee noted that the Governor of Texas and the Texas Attorney General both receive salaries of $150,000 per year. Therefore, a Montgomery County Commissioner and the Montgomery County Judge both earn substantially higher salaries than the Governor and the Attorney General!

Since the Citizens Budget Committee Salary Survey included a recommendation for a substantial reduction in Commissioners Court salaries, the Committee also recommended a method to transition to the lower salaries for the current members of the Commissioners Court.

The Commissioners Court completely ignored the presentation. Four of the five members of the Court – former disgraced County Judge Craig Doyal, Meador, Riley, and Noack – wouldn’t even look at the presenter during the presentation.

The full Citizens Budget Committee Salary Survey follows.

Citizens Budget Committee Salary Survey, Page 1.
Citizens Budget Committee Salary Survey, page 2.
Citizens Budget Committee Salary Survey, page 3.
Citizens Budget Committee Salary Survey, page 4.
Citizens Budget Committee Salary Survey, page 5.
Citizens Budget Committee Salary Survey, page 6.
Citizens Budget Committee Salary Survey, page 7.
Citizens Budget Committee Salary Survey, page 7.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

comments

You must be logged in to post a comment Login