Conroe, February 14 – During the regular Commissioners Court meeting this past Tuesday, the five-person Commissioners Court debated whether to give taxpayers relief in the form of a 20% homestead exemption. The resolution, which Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack moved to adopt and Precinct 4 Commissioner Jim Clark seconded, failed on a 2 to 3 vote after the “wild homestead exemption debate.” While the tax relief failed, the debate highlighted the positions on government spending and tax relief of each member of the Commissioners Court.
Craig Doyal, Classic Democratic Socialist. In summary, County Judge Craig Doyal made clear that he favors additional County government spending and uses “economic development” as a rationale. Doyal believes that government spurs economic growth, the purpose of which is to support further government growth. He clearly follows the philosophy of democratic socialist nations in Europe and of 20th century economist John Maynard Keynes.
Commissioner Mike Meador, Follower of Fidel Castro’s Philosophy. Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador has consistently sought to increase County government spending and taxation at every turn. As Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Russia’s Vladimir Lenin, and Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels believed, government leaders have far greater knowledge and understanding of how workers should appropriately allocate their money than do the workers themselves. Meador reluctantly supported a 10% homestead exemption but made clear that he supports increased County government spending, despite the 428% increase in that spending since 2000, during a period of 84% population growth.
Charlie Riley, Ardent Advocate of Indecision. Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley clarified his absence of clarity. He wanted to ask questions, delay any sort of decision, and permit the massive taxation and County government spending growth to continue while he made up his mind in secret.
Jim Clark, Fearful Follower Slowing Realizing Leadership May Actually Work. Precinct 4 Commissioner Jim Clark has begun to realize that his constituents want and expect him to listen to their concerns and exercise real conservative leadership. While he continues to waffle a bit and emphasize how difficult his position is “on that side of the bench,” he’s beginning to understand that true leadership is listening to Precinct 4 voters who are begging for efficient use of government funds, actually providing government services, County government spending relief, and substantial property tax relief. Precinct 4 has a great opportunity to lead Montgomery County growth over the next quarter century but that won’t happen unless Clark and his colleagues dispel the notion that Montgomery County is one of the highest-taxing and most corrupt graveyards of hope in the State of Texas.
James Noack, Rising Leader Finding His Voice. Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack is pushing for County government spending reductions and tax relief. He’s beginning to find his voice of leadership. The great leaders in policy matters are not those who take a bludgeon to policy issues but instead are hard workers, careful decisionmakers, and crafters of firm reform. The “across-the-board” spending reductions are an affront to law enforcement departments in Montgomery County that need more funds to provide the public safety that citizens seek. As Noack explained during a few points in the discussion, the “5% reduction” bludgeon really is not appropriate. Rather, a “line-by-line” review of the budget is where Montgomery County’s government must go, despite the protests of Doyal and Meador who desperately seek to hide the County government’s operations under their Lambright-enabled cloak.
Here’s a brief summary of the discussion in Commissioners Court.
Noack: Ms. McRae (Montgomery County Tax Assessor-Collector), what’s your recommendation?
McRae: As taxpayer, of course, I’d like 20%. As tax assessor, that’s your decision…
Noack moved, seconded a proposed 20% homestead exemption.
Noack: Dallas, Fort Bend, Travis, Harris, San Jacinto all have the 20% homestead exemption…Collin County has 5%…The County’s Budget has grown far above inflation and population…The challenge for court is to go through line-by-line through the budget.
Doyal: Some of counties that do provide the 20% homestead exemption have more square miles than we do and Montgomery County has a smaller ad valorem tax base. I don’t know if we can get there in spending reductions.
Meador: Today we could vote to do 10%. [How did he know that before the vote?]
Noack: We need to work towards 20%.
Meador: I like cash and carry [not incurring debt. Hopefully then, Meador will stop the $100 million 3.6 mile “Decimation of Hope Highway” project, which could potentially bankrupt Montgomery County and its taxpayers.]10% would be very workable and then we’ll look at next budget.
Clark: I’d agree with that [already waffling]. I’m asking department heads to look at 5% [spending reduction] but looking at roads, bridge, drainage, and law enforcement and we have to have that. As much as I’d like to do 20% I don’t want to promise anything we couldn’t deliver. I don’t think we can do 20% in this upcoming cycle and make a commitment in following years.
Riley: Do we have to do anything today? Can’t we get the numbers together.
Noack: We can support a spending reduction.
Doyal: We’re only small portion of spending [Doyal wants to divert attention away from the massive government spending increases he’s caused and blame any other taxing authority he can possibly find. That’s been his “chief of staff” Jim Fredricks’ argument as well, which is prescient, since Fredricks seems to write Doyal’s script.]
We can’t cut too much bc could cost economic development. Economic development pays for the bills for Montgomery County.
Noack: We need to do budget differently and need to go line-by-line and eliminate positions that have been open for more than year. We need to see where departments can save money and where they’re not using their budgets. [But, Commissioner Noack, you can’t depend upon the bureaucrats to cut their own budgets. That has to occur from the top. That’s where Gramm-Rudman-Hollings failed at the federal level, even though their hearts were in the right place.]
State is considering a 4 to 6% decrease in budget, so we should as well. We need to look much harder. The best way to do a thorough budget reduction is to challenge department heads and elected officials to find a 5% reduction.
Meador: I talked to [Fire Marshal] Jimmy Williams [one of Montgomery County’s smallest departments]. He can’t run office with what he has. It’s tight. There’s not any fluff out there.
Noack: We may have to make hard decisions.
Meador: Most cuts would be personnel.
Doyal: Your (Noack) budget went up by $3 million. We should keep budgets from growing above population growth and inflation. [That’s nice of Doyal to say, but the numbers reveal he’s never followed that formula and caused the County spending to grow far more rapidly than that. Even that formula is only a maximum growth rate. The Texas Public Policy Foundation does not urge spending growth at the rate of inflation plus population growth. Rather, they’ve made clear that is only the ceiling for growth.]
Noack: From 2006 to 2015, the County budget has grown 125%, while population and inflation together only grew 49.7%.
Doyal: During the last 2 years we held County government spending growth to population and inflation. [That’s incorrect. Please see “Montgomery County Government Spending Increases Have Defied Republican Voters’ Wishes: The Reckless Numbers Do Not Lie,” The Golden Hammer, February 17, 2017.]
Clark: It’s a lot different on this side of the bench than it is on that side of the bench. [Right, Commissioner Clark, the citizens actually have more information and greater understanding of what’s actually happening both in the real world and in our County government.] I challenge folks and department heads to come up to podium to tell us where they found money to cut and give back. Don’t come and ask unless absolutely need it. [Commissioner, you need to find those cuts. You need to show the leadership.]
Meador: 8% of the increase of the County spending budget is money set aside for capital projects.
Noack: The issue is we haven’t kept budget under population and inflation growth.
Doyal: We have the last 2 years. [Just because you repeated yourself, sir, doesn’t make it true.]
Noack: We have a big deficit we have to overcome. Maybe we have too many prosecutors. Just because he [DA Brett Ligon] says it doesn’t make it so. [Commisioner Noack, you illustrated why the line-by-line leadership on the budget is the only appropriate course of action for the Commissioners Court. Expecting the law enforcement departments to chop their budgets is against the public will and unfair. Furthermore, you give fodder to the enemy in The War Against The Taxpayers by continuing to make that point.]
Riley: We have to challenge and listen to them.
Doyal: You ignored the elected official salary review committee. [So did you, Judge Doyal, when you voted to give yourself a 3% raise.]
The Court voted 2 (Clark, Noack) to 3 (Doyal, Meador, Riley) for a 20% homestead exemption, so the measure failed.
The Court then voted 5 to 0 to adopt a 10% homestead exemption for Fiscal Year 2018.