Image: Flemish painter Pieter Boel’s Hounds Bringing Down a Boar, mid-17th century, oil on canvas.
Eric Yollick, The Golden Hammer
If you visit the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, one of the paintings you’ll see just past the room, where the special Renaissance exhibition with paintings and drawings of Michelangelo, Rafael, and Titian is, is Flemish painter Pieter Boel’s Hounds Bringing Down a Boar, an oil on canvas action scene of a group of dogs capturing and pulling down a wild boar with their teeth in the wild. When you look at the painting, the first thing you feel is that this painting is a representation of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court, the preying dogs, bringing down the taxpayers, the wild boar.
Welcome to the Montgomery County government, Amanda Carter, the new so-called “Budget Office Director.” As Republican nominee for County Judge, Mark Keough, explained during his campaign to win the March 6, 2018, Republican Primary Election,
“Between Fiscal Years 2006 to 2018, taxable property values in Montgomery County have skyrocketed 139%, while assessed tax rates have dropped only 5.96% [from the three paltry tax rate reductions] equating to a 133% increase in tax levies. While growth in the county has occurred during this period, our population growth of 41% and inflation during this time at 18.82% does not justify such a fast and high growth in county tax revenues or spending.”
What’s important to note is that County Judge Craig Doyal and the County Commissioners, with the exception of Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark who didn’t cooperate with them, have spent every single penny of that tax increase every year with new spending programs. The Budget Office and your job, Ms. Carter, came into being not as some sort of commitment to efficiency or the reduction of waste. Rather, your job and office came into being on July 28, 2017, when Doyal and Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack observed – horror of horrors – that they had approximately $210,000 of unspent funds for Fiscal Year 2018 as a result of the 20% homestead exemption which resulted in a lower charge from the Montgomery Central Appraisal District, which charges taxing entities based upon the amount of taxes they assess. The Citizens Budget Committee and numerous citizens also complained that Doyal’s County Judge Department had a ghost employee, a $50,000 unfilled position held on the spending books each year in order to ding the taxpayers another $50,000 in taxes. Doyal and Noack transferred that $50,000 into your Budget Office as well.
When all of those transfers occurred, Noack assured the taxpayers that the Commissioners Court would reduce County spending by the funds set aside for budget activities inside of the County Auditor’s Office. Noack made that promise twice, once on September 5, 2017, and once again on March 27, 2018. Doyal joined Noack in that assurance on March 27. It hasn’t happened nor does it seem that it ever will. It’s just another scam perpetrated on the taxpayers.
As the State Representative running for Montgomery County Judge noted, “These tax increases don’t just reflect increased collections from newly developed properties. What we’re actually doing is we’re punishing the people who have built this County by increasing the taxes on their homes and on commercial developments.”
Keough further explained,
“Why is it that homeowners and businesses who built this county to what it is today are the ones being punished by our current tax structure? Did you know that skyrocketing appraisals coupled with little to no tax rate reduction added over $29 million dollars in new taxes to Montgomery County’s budget in FY 16 and FY 17? In total $44 million dollars in additional property tax dollars were collected in these two fiscal years for Montgomery County. The majority of that being the $29 million charged to existing homes and businesses. In fact, taxes collected on existing homes and businesses have grown faster than our population growth plus inflation over the last 12 years.”
Ms. Carter, here’s the game. Doyal and the Commissioners Court (other than Clark) don’t really seem to care about reductions in County government spending. All they care about is making voters, whom they perceive as gullible, believe that they care about spending control. They attempt every trick there is to try to fool us. You see, they know that the Publisher of The Golden Hammer, who is a private citizen, is really, really stupid. Therefore, they assume that all of the voters are just as stupid as he is.
But that’s where they’re wrong. There are a lot of incredibly intelligent people who live in Montgomery County who are watching your every move as Budget Office Director. So far, they’ve observed:
- You’ve established a budget calendar that excludes the citizens utilizing the same methodology that Doyal and County Auditor Phyllis Martin used last year. The most insulting aspect of that calendar is that you’ve scheduled two “public hearings” on the budget during August, 2018, but you don’t plan to make the proposed budget available to the public until after those two so-called hearings.
- According to the Risk Management Department Director, you, Ms. Carter, okayed her mid-year salary increases for four employees.
- Your “budget policy” contains no direction whatsoever to County Departments to reduce their budgets and contains no effort at all to implement zero-based budgeting. Rather, you have clearly instructed the County Departments to propose budgets based upon the Fiscal Year 2018 budgets. You want them to submit “wish lists” to you for higher budgets and higher salaries. In other words, you intend to oversee increases in County government spending.
- You have taken no action whatsoever to look for waste or fat in the County government budget. Have you examined the County government’s spending under the philosophical scrutiny of Robert Nozick, Milton Friedman, Frederick Hayek, John Locke, or Thomas Hobbes?
- So far, you’re clearly on the side of the bureaucracy and the secretive Doyal. When, if ever, may we look forward to some transparency in the entire budget process? When will you make each and every County Department justify every penny of expenditure to you in a public setting?
- You intend to continue the so-called “budget hearings” which are anything but hearings. They exclude citizen participation. They are little more than glamor speeches by bureaucrats who want to make Doyal and the Commissioners all nice and warm inside.
You came to this community three weeks after an historic election on March 6 when the voters rejected the approach of the County Judge and the County Treasurer and when the voters sent a pretty strong message to the Commissioners Court that the citizens of Montgomery County have had enough.
The taxpayers will not be a wild boar standing waiting for the hounds of the Montgomery County government to bring us down and eat us whole any longer.