Image: County Auditor and Chief Budget Officer Phyllis Martin.
Conroe, June 27 – With Montgomery County government spending exploding out of control with a 424% increase since 2000 and with a complete failure of Montgomery County’s Auditor Department to follow generally accepted accounting principles – to the degree that 435th District Judge Patty Maginnis had to order an independent audit by a Committee on Finance – one might think that County Auditor and Chief Budget Officer Phyllis Martin might have a bit of shame. Don’t count on it; she’s the one official in Montgomery County who is seeking a salary raise!
Board of District Judges; Martin’s Salary
While the eight District Judges have tightened their belts in their proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budgets in order to meet citizen concerns over the explosion in County government spending, Martin, who answers to the Board of District Judges will ask for a pay raise at a meeting on June 30, 2017, at 12 noon, at the Montgomery County Courthouse, 301 North Main, Suite 209, Conroe, Texas 77301. The meeting official notice came out on Thursday, June 8.
In a memorandum which Martin has attempted to keep secret from the public, Martin has asked that the Board of District Judges “consider salary as to the position of the County Auditor.” Martin provided the salaries of twelve “select” Texas counties. Even for those twelve counties, Martin’s salary of $145,563 is higher than the average.
For the three rapidly-growing counties most comparable to Montgomery County is size – Collin, Denton, and Fort Bend – Martin failed to point out to the Board of District Judges in her memo that her salary is actually $5,983 per year higher than the average of those three. Martin also didn’t mention in her memo to the Board of District Judges that, under her watch, while the County government’s spending has grown 424%, population has only grown 84%.
County Auditor’s requested spending increase
The vast majority of County Departments have proposed Fiscal Year 2018 Budgets that would either keep spending at the same level as this year or actually reduce spending by 5%, as Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack has requested.
Martin, however, has not reduced the County Auditor’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2018 at all. Martin’s budget includes $17,505 for travel and lodging, $5,000 to enter into a contract “to assist with salary study information,” and $23,200 for computer paper, copy paper, pens, folders, subscriptions, post office box rent, calendars, calculators, and computers, among other items. In other words, Martin wants to spend $5,000 of Montgomery County taxpayer funds on studying salaries in order to argue for future raises.
If Martin gets her own salary increase, however, she’ll have a spending increase for her County Auditor’s Department.
If anything, Martin’s salary and staff should decrease dramatically. Martin has failed to follow Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. (Please see “Full Report to Board of District Judges: ‘Need for an Independent Audit Under Section 115.033 of the Texas Local Government Code’,” The Golden Hammer, May 27, 2017.) Martin has failed to apply audit principles to insist compliance with state law concerning conflicts of interest, nepotism, and ethics.
As Chief Budget Officer, Martin has failed to rein in County spending at all. Instead, the Montgomery County government’s spending has increased dramatically and without any restraint. Martin has failed to apply zero-based budgeting principles to the County. Rather, each budget is based upon the previous year’s budget as a floor for every County department’s new budget.
Martin’s fundamental error as County Auditor has been that she’s played politics with Doyal and Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador. Instead of leaning on every County Department to implement sound management practices, zero-based budgeting principles, and eliminate waste, Martin has become the Commissioners Court apologist for increased spending.
The Board of District Judges should rein in Martin and now is the time to do so. They should begin by requiring Martin to implement zero-based budgeting principles to her own County Department. Martin’s salary is substantially too high. According to Martin’s own data, Denton County has a population of 780,612 with a County Auditor who earns $134,545. Montgomery County’s present population is approximately 562,000. Therefore, one might argue that Montgomery County’s Auditor should make a proportional salary to Denton:
(562,000/780,612) x $134,545 = $96,865.
First glance of an appropriate budget for County Auditor Phyllis Martin
At first glance, the County Auditor Department’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2018 would be more appropriate as follows (in dollars):
Salary/Department Head 96,865
Other Salaries 1,200,000
Stationary and Supplies 1,500
Professional Development 5,000
Professional Services -0-
Travel Expense 1,000
Contract Services 7,500
Equipment rental 6,000
Association Dues -0-
That’s way too high still, but it’s a start. That’s a reduction of $460,037 in the Chief Budget Officer’s bloated Department budget.
The Last Word
Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack commented, “I’m really disappointed in Phyllis Martin’s proposed budget. She’s the County Auditor and Chief Budget Officer. A lot of other departments are working hard to reduce their spending by 5% to help offset the 20% homestead exemption and to give taxpayers a break. Martin should reduce her budget as well.”