Conroe, July 25 – Montgomery County Judge Craig arrived at the so-called “budget workshop” late and still chewing his food from lunch yesterday afternoon to begin an afternoon where Doyal and the members of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court clearly were unprepared for the entire meeting. Since Doyal has excluded citizen participation, very few citizens attended this tribute to government spending growth. The only non-County employees in the room during the meeting were Republican Nominee for County Judge Mark Keough, his Chief of Staff Jason Millsaps, and the Publisher of this newspaper.
The highlight of the afternoon session came near the beginning when Budget Office Director Amanda Carter presented a summary of her budget recommendation, which included $8 million of increased spending. Carter recommended adding a limited number of new positions to the already-bloated County government non-law-enforcement staff.
When Carter listed the new positions she would recommend for the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget, she included one new employee for Commissioners Precinct 3 (James Noack) and four new employees for Commissioners Precinct 2 (Charlie Riley). Riley, as always acted out of complete befuddlement. “What do we have?” Riley asked not understanding why his office would need four new positions. Carter then explained the positions to Riley who accepted her recommendation which Carter had based on Riley’s request to her.
Since the workshop began with presentations from law enforcement departments, it wasn’t a surprise that the presenters were well prepared and could answer questions from the Commissioners Court.
Sheriff Rand Henderson began the workshop with an explanation of his departmental request for the Sheriff’s Office. While Henderson reduced the operational expenses for the Sheriff’s Office in his request by $444,738 from the current year’s budget, largely thanks to Henderson’s application of zero-based budget principles to the largest County government department, he also asked for twenty-three (23) new positions, totaling $2.47 million in new expenditures, to cover 10 patrol deputies, and associated support and supervisory personnel.
Carter complimented Sheriff Henderson for the fact that with 848 employees, the Sheriff’s Office has a 95.5% “fill rate,” which Carter said “the public needs to hear.”
Henderson told the Commissioners Court that the highest priority for his department for the coming year was to add dispatchers and at least one crime scene investigator position.
Precinct 1 Constable Philip Cash told the Commissioners Court that his department’s countywide mental health law enforcement duties have created the need for several new peace officer and administrative positions in his office.
The largest percentage budget increase came from Precinct 3 Constable Ryan Gable who is seeking a new civil deputy position for service of court papers, two DWI units, and two detectives, as well as an administrative assistant, position upgrades, additional vehicle funding and maintenance expenses, travel costs, and increases in training, fuel, supplies, uniforms, software, and telephones. Gable’s total additional increase for Fiscal Year 2019 is $1,120,717.99, with his current year’s budget at $3,603,857. The requested increase is more than 31%.
Doyal responded to Gable during the hearing that the Commissioners Court would have “difficulty” giving him what he requested and commented, “Hopefully, Tammy [McRae, Tax Assessor] will ride in here on her white horse.” Of course, only in Doyal’s world would higher taxation constitute a “white horse” rather than the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
In addition to the law enforcement departments, the Custodial Department, Building Maintenance, and County Treasurer made their budget presentations. During the Treasurer’s presentation, Republican Nominee for County Treasurer Melanie Pryor Bush attended the session.
The Commissioners Court has failed to impose any sort of discipline on the County department heads at all. The so-called “budget workshop” is little more than an experience similar to watching children line up at the department store to tell Santa what they want for Christmas. Late on Thursday and on Friday morning, July 27, the Commissioners Court will vote to set the tax rate and adopt their budget without any citizen input. From previous years’ experience, Doyal and the Commissioners will then go through the motions of holding three public hearings where they ignore all citizen comments before they finally pass the same budget they’ll vote for on July 27.