Conroe, March 18 – The Montgomery County Commissioners Court’s enormous annual losses on its tollroad operations will likely cast a dark pall over the Tuesday, March 19, 2019, Commissioners Court meeting, even if the Commissioners carefully avoiding discussing those losses. The so-called “Montgomery County Toll Road Authority” (MCTRA), which is really just the Commissioners Court, will receive its official Fiscal Year 2018 financial statements.
The MCTRA financial statement reveals an operating loss of $1,634,233 from the tollroad operations which Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, former County Judge Craig Doyal, and Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador have repeatedly promised would be “huge money makers for the citizens.” Instead, citizens are paying tolls on the State Highway 242 flyovers while, as taxpayers, they’re losing a fortune annually.
While the MCTRA financial statement, which Montgomery County Auditor Rakesh Pandey will present to the Commissioners Court, has a letter from Weaver & Tidwell accountants supposedly approving the so-called audit, in reality the audit was internal. The Montgomery County Auditor’s Office conducts an internal audit while the outside accounting merely conducts a small “test audit” and then receives a nice fee for doing almost nothing.
Tollroads around Texas often lose substantial funds in their operations. At least one tollroad in the Austin area actually filed for bankruptcy protection followed soon by a sale of the tollroad system to private investors. Financial advisors to the Commissioners Court have already suggested that they will recommend “evasive action” if (and when) the TX 249 Tollway, also known as the Decimation of Hope Highway, loses money and is unable to pay its financial obligations, particular to bondholders who loan the massive funds the County government will spend to build that road which will take drivers into undeveloped pastureland just south of Grimes County.
In another financial hit to the taxpayers, the MCTRA has included on the Commissioners Court agenda that it will repay a $500,000 loan the Commissioners Court made to itself to “study” whether or not to build the TX 249 Tollway. It was a wonderful opportunity to take County tax dollars and funnel them into the hands of County vendors who politically supported certain members of the Commissioners Court.
MCTRA was to repay the $500,000 loan by July 31, 2018, under the express terms of the loan document. The loan repayment obviously is eight (8) months late. Additionally, a commercial loan would likely bear interest in the amount of five percent per year, or $141,041.66 through the 5 years, 231 days, of the loan, which, of course, is in default. In other words, if the taxpayers don’t receive repayment equal to or in excess of $641,041.66, the Commissioners Court will be ripping them off.
The Commissioners Court will approve twenty-two (22) budget amendments without discussion.
The budget amendments include, among others:
- Precinct 2 Commissioner Riley will move $75,000 from his asphalt account, the ultimate “slush fund,” to pay $75,000 for professional services;
- Riley will also move $2,210 from his road and bridge budget to pay for pagers for his staff;
- Precinct 3 Commissioner Noack will move $5,748.00 from his major road projects account to pay for pagers for his staff;
- Noack is also moving $30,180 from his carryover “slush fund” into capital projects.
Certainly without discussion, the Commissioners Court will accept racial profiling reports from the Constables of Precinct 1 (Cash), 2 (De Forest), and 5 (Jones).
The Commissioners Court will spend $7,000 on pins and service awards.
County Treasurer Melanie Bush
County Treasurer Melanie Bush will present a report on her findings inside her office after her first eleven weeks in office. Bush has attempted to clean up the total mess disgraced former County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport left. In return for that mess, the Commissioners Court voted three weeks ago to reward Davenport with an appointment to the Montgomery County Airport Advisory Board.
Bush will also propose reorganizing the Treasurer’s Office back to substantive positions rather than the bureaucratic titles Davenport had created when she had tried to promote Doyal’s daughter and give her a pay raise. Bush’s reorganization will not cost taxpayers any funds.
County Auditor Rakesh Pandey will present the Fiscal Year 2018 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). This report is important and a critical tool for taxpayer vigilance. Thankfully, Pandey is not presenting a “Popular Annual Financial Report,” which was a supposedly-dumbed-down version of the CAFR. In actuality, the “PAFR” was an advertising brochure to make County taxpayers feel better that the County government is forcefully taking away their money.
Pandey will also re-present his findings with respect to the operations of the County Auditor’s Office, which he had presented to the Board of District Judge on February 15. There was nothing particular noteworthy which Pandey presented. Clearly, little reform has occurred in that office so far, except that Pandey is far more open and accessible to other County employees than was his predecessor Phyllis Martin.
The Commissioners Court will approve spending of $12,733,000.24 without oversight or discussion. The payments will include $12,500 to Weaver and Tidwell accounting firm for doing nothing to audit the MCTRA, payments of several million dollars to political contributors who then became County vendors, and, of course, payment of more than $21,000 to John Holzwarth, the political contributor-engineer who duplicates the work of salaried County Engineer Mark Mooney.
County Attorney appointment
The Commissioners Court will appoint BD Griffin, the popular and highly-respected First Assistant County Attorney, to succeed fallen hero JD Lambright as Montgomery County Attorney.