Selfish inward looking Montgomery County Commissioners continue to dynamite taxpayers’ future during May 14 meeting

Selfish inward looking Montgomery County Commissioners continue to dynamite taxpayers’ future during May 14 meeting

Image: The hopes and future of Montgomery County taxpayers go up in smoke each time the Montgomery County Commissioners Court selfishly spends more money to feed the bloated County government and fill their own large pockets.

Conroe, May 24 – The Montgomery County Commissioners Court meeting on May 14, 2019, was nothing short of a spending disaster which added nothing whatsoever to County services while adding enormously to the burden upon County taxpayers. They spent millions of dollars without contemplating the impact in any manner whatsoever just like a 3-year-old child in a candy store.

Montgomery County Budget Director Amanda Carter announced that the Commissioners Court’s decisions to give County vehicles to many County employees rather than car allowances is resulting in “lot of employees are getting into accidents.” After that outstanding presentation, the Montgomery County Commissioners Court didn’t bat an eye lash in approving $2,464,980 in new expenditures for employee benefits.

The entirety of the agenda item on the May 14 Commissioners Court agenda read: “Consider and approve funding factors for the Fiscal Year 2020 Budget.” There was no backup information attached to the agenda. There was no mention of what were “funding factors.”

Carter, however, handed the members of the Commissioners Court a memorandum, which she prepared but which no one made available to the public during or before the meeting. With almost no discussion or review, the Commissioners Court approved the massive increase in spending.

Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack asked how many retired County employees were a part of the retiree medical coverage, an employee benefit Montgomery County provides, even though almost private companies do so and even very few county governments provide that incredibly lucrative benefit. Carter answered, “364.”

County taxpayers are, therefore, paying $9,890.00 per year for retired County government employees to receive free medical care at a cost to taxpayers of $3,599,960.00 per year!

The total employee benefits the Commissioners Court blindly approved are:

  • Employee Medical Coverage, which is obviously a “Cadillac” medical plan costing $11,466.00 per year per employee. In Fiscal Year 2020, the increase will be to $12,039.30. With approximately 2,600 total employees, County taxpayers pay $29,811,600 for medical coverage for the County government. The increase, which the Commissioners Court approved yesterday was $573.30 per employee, or $1,490,500 approximately. That seems like a lot of money to approve with no discussion or oversight.
  • Retiree Medical Coverage, also the “Cadillac” of such coverage. The increase alone will cost taxpayers $207,480, with the total cost of $3,599,960.00.
  • Workers Compensation. The Commissioners Court voted to increase the funding level by 24.42% from $1,085,000 to $1,350,000, a $265,000 increase.
  • Property & Casualty. The Commissioners Court voted to increase the funding level from $1,898,000 to $2,400,000, a 26.42% increase.

With salaries substantially higher than the private sector, the Montgomery County government provides employee benefits far more lucrative than Fortune 500 companies or the vast majority of private businesses in Montgomery County.

Montgomery County’s government is the elite society about which Dr. Strangelove mused at the end of the movie of that moniker.

Ratings explained

The Golden Hammer‘s rating system follows the Platform of the Republican Party of Texas.

The Golden Hammer‘s ratings measure Commissioners Court votes that affect spending in comparison to the provisions of the Republican Party of Texas Platform. Points are good. The number of points depends upon the amount of money involved in each vote.

The Commissioners Court, all of whom claim to be Republicans, violated the Republican Party Platform on almost every vote during the March 26 meeting. They violated Plank 144 in particular, which provides:

“144. Government Spending: Government Spending is out of control at the federal, state, and local levels, and action is needed.”

The editorial staff of this newspaper sincerely hopes that Plank 144 is simple enough that even the members of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court might understand it.

Commissioners Court meeting, April 23, 2019, 9:30 a.m. All Court members were physically present.

The votes

Vote #1 – Millions in additional employee benefits (discussed above). Major vote. 25 points. “No” vote appropriate. Passed unanimously. They voted themselves a giant increase in benefits.

Vote #2 – The Commissioners Court is playing games with budget amendments again. The amendments included:

  • $269,000 pulled from an unbudgeted Information Technology slush fund;
  • $25,000 pulled from Riley’s slush fund without explanation;
  • $4.7 million pulled from Noack’s slush fund without explanation;
  • $400,000 pulled from Meador’s slush fund without explanation.

The total budget amendments were $6.522 million. A “no” vote is appropriate. Major vote. 25 points. Passed unanimously.

Vote #3 to 22 – Purchasing items totaling $2.8 million. Many of the contracts are missing portions or not there at all. How can the Commissioners Court members vote on spending items where the contracts aren’t even in front of them?! A “no” vote is appropriate. 5 points each. Passed unanimously.

Vote #23 – Payroll Change request forms. There were several payroll changes but one major one. County Engineer Mark Mooney retired. Mooney’s career is sad. Mooney was an excellent young engineer. He grew lazier and lazier on his fat County government salary. Disgraced former County Judge Craig Doyal turned Mooney into furniture. 5 points. “Yes” vote very appropriate. Passed unanimously.

Vote #24 – The Commissioners Court made an outstanding decision on a 4 (Noack, Riley, Meador, Metts) to 1 (Keough) vote to defer agreeing to spend $83,602.04 per year on hiring a Medicolegal Death Investigator for the Forensic Services Office. It’s not a necessity. Noack raised the right questions. First, why spend the money in the middle of the budget year? Second, do we really need to move forward with establishing a Medical Examiner’s Office when the County has not yet reached a population of 1 million? Montgomery County is growing but it may be at least another fifteen years before the County has 1 million population. The law does not require the County to have a Medical Examiner until we reach the 1 million threshold. 10 points. “Yes” vote on deferring appropriate.

Vote #25 – County Treasurer Melanie Pryor Bush moved some positions around in her office at no expense to the taxpayers. 5 points. “Yes” vote appropriate. Passed unanimously.

Vote #26 – Payment of Accounts. More than $68,000 paid to Graves Humphries law firm for their collection work which actually harms the taxpayers, because they do such poor work. Additionally, considering that Graves Humphries is supposed to be providing software and technology services to the County for free,

WHY ARE WE PAYING GRAVES HUMPHRIES $30,000 OUT OF THE JUSTICE COURT TECHNOLOGY FUND???!!!

Total payments of $16,296,936.64. No deliberation, oversight, or even discussion. Major vote. 25 points. Passed unanimously.

Vote #27 – The Commissioners Court voted to decline a proposed grant to the Emergency Management Department for safety barriers during emergencies. Both Noack and Riley complained about the expense of the entire program as well as the $154,000 the “grant” would cost the County. “Yes” vote as to declining the grant appropriate. 10 points. Passed unanimously.

Vote #28 – Bureaucrat Library Director Jerri Williams asked to spend $54,000 per year plus benefits on filling a position which she had kept vacant for almost nine months. The Library is a wasteful boondoggle stuck in the 1970s as far as the services it provides. 25 points. Major vote. “No” vote appropriate. Passed three (Riley, Meador, Metts) to two (Keough, Noack).

Vote #29 – Approved $336,000 of change orders without review or pricing analysis. “No” vote appropriate. 10 points. Passed unanimously.

Vote #30 – Approved spending $1292 for “safety enhancement” to County Engineer’s office. What a joke! They need more safety? 1 point. “No” vote appropriate. Passed unanimously.

Bill O’Sullivan, David Smith, and John Wertz provided citizen comments. Wertz noted that the Commissioners Court spends inordinate time discussing small spending proposals and just unanimously passes massive spending items without discussion.

What’s stunning about this Commissioners Court meeting is that there was no consideration whatsoever of the impact of these gigantic spending initiatives on the Fiscal Year 2020 Budget.

Ratings for Commissioners Court meeting, May 14, 2019:

KEOUGH 20/241. Grade F.

MEADOR 30/241. Grade F.

RILEY 30/241. Grade F.

NOACK 30/241. Grade B.

METTS 30/241. Grade F.

The following are the cumulative scores for Fiscal Year 2019, which began October 1, 2018.

KEOUGH 2,953/3,351. Grade B+.

MEADOR -197/3,663. Grade F.

RILEY -1,967/3,663. Grade F.

NOACK 2,153/3,663. Grade F.

METTS 568/3,351. Grade F.

The citizens must remain vigilant.

 

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