Image: Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley made the motion to adopt a tax rate of 43.12 cents per $100 valuation, which is a slight decrease in County government taxes, at the September 8, 2020, Montgomery County Commissioners Court meeting. Riley’s motion passed unanimously.
The Golden Hammer Staff Reports
Conroe, September 9 – Montgomery County taxpayers received a major surprise when Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley moved for the adoption of a tax rate of 43.12 cents per $100 valuation, an amount lower than the “no new revenue tax rate” (also called the effective tax rate). After Riley’s motion, the Commissioners Court voted unanimously to adopt a tax rate of 43.12 cents per $100 valuation and to take approximately $5.5 million of funds from the fund balance rather than reducing County spending at all.
Previously, Riley, Precinct 4 Commissioner James Metts, and Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador had voted – twice – to adopt a tax rate of 44.12 cents per $100 valuation, which would have been a substantial tax increase for Montgomery County taxpayers. Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack had proposed to reduce certain spending and defer certain capital expenditures by at least a year, so that beleaguered Montgomery County taxpayers, who have suffered from government shutdowns during the Chinese Coronavirus panic, would not also suffer a tax increase. Noack’s motion failed on a two votes in favor (Noack, County Judge Mark Keough) to three against (Riley, Metts, Meador) vote.
On April 28, 2020, Meador told the Commissioners Court “My opinion is don’t come to us and ask for anything…It’s going to be a real different budget session this year. It’s going to be a 2008 budget session this year.” Meador later added, “We got a lot of people who are in a real bind…It’s time to tighten the belt.”
Riley agreed with both of Meador’s statements on April 28.
The 2008 budget was $166,657,693. The Fiscal Year 2021 Budget, which the Commissioners Court adopted yesterday, was $350,555,386, or 210% of the FY 2008 Budget.
Population growth has been 46.03% since 2008, while inflation has been 22.1% since that time. Therefore, adding population growth and inflation to the FY 2008 expenditures would yield a FY 2021 budget amount of $280,151,582, or more than $70 million less than the bloated budget the Commissioners Court actually adopted.
Riley, Metts, Meador, and Keough had supported new spending of $4 million on a Forensics Center, even though no plans, estimates, budget, or contracts have yet developed for any proposed Center. That $4 million blew the FY 2021 budget and would have necessitated the tax increase, unless the Commissioners Court found spending reductions, which has never occurred.
The “no new revenue tax rate” or “effective tax rate” is the tax rate at which taxes would stay the same as the current year, even with property tax appraisal increases. The “effective tax rate” this year is 43.19 cents per $100 valuation, meaning that rate is where taxes would stay where they are in the current fiscal year.
With the adoption of the 43.12 cents per $100 valuation, Montgomery County taxpayers will enjoy a 0.163% tax reduction.
Numerous citizens attended the meeting either to speak during the public hearing or to give support to those who spoke. The speakers included Dennis Tibbs, Calvin Russell, Ginger Russell, Billy Graff, Adrian Kaiser on behalf of Republican Party Chairman Bryan Christ, and Lorena McGill on behalf of Democratic Party Chair Amy Lewis.
Noack commented, “After an extremely tough year on our local economy due to the COVID-19 outbreak, I am ecstatic that Commissioners Court sought to provide relief to residents…”
The Golden Hammer has confirmed that, behind the scenes, Precinct 4 Commissioner James Metts opposed any effort to reduce taxes or keep taxes at the “no new revenue tax rate.” One individual from Metts’ staff and one individual from the staff of another Commissioner confirmed that Metts made clear he opposed any tax relief for County taxpayers, although he eventually agreed to vote along with Riley and Meador for the use of fund balance money already in place instead of supporting the tax increase.