Conroe, June 5 – As Montgomery County’s government moves into the budget season, only one department has openly chosen to utilize zero-base budgeting, which requires managers to build a budget from the ground up, basing spending upon the resources necessary to meet departmental purposes. Currently, the Montgomery County Judge, under the leadership of lame duck Craig Doyal, has a budget of $570,173. That budget includes five employees. Now, of course, Doyal and his Commissioners Court colleagues intend to use baseline budgeting, primarily because they want to give themselves hefty raises, likely in the range of 10%.
Projections of the Tax Assessor-Collector are beginning to look as though the County government has raised $45.7 in additional taxes through appraisal increases on the homes of Montgomery County citizens and through some new properties coming onto the tax rolls. It’s clear that Doyal and his colleagues want to spend all of that money. That is not the zero-base budgeting approach.
Zero-base budgeting looks at the purposes of the department. According to the Texas Association of Counties, the County Judge has five purposes:
- Presiding officer of the Commissioners Court.
- Represents the county in many administrative functions.
- Serves as budget officer in counties with fewer than 225,000 residents.
- Most have broad judicial duties, such as presiding over misdemeanor criminal and small civil cases, probate matters and appeals from the Justice of the Peace Court.
- Serves as head of emergency management.
Doyal presides of the Commissioners Court twice a month for about three hours and prepares the meeting agenda the week before the meetings. Doyal’s administrative functions are quite minimal, although he does handle a fund for pauper’s burials. Doyal doesn’t serve as the budget officer, because Montgomery County has more than 225,000 residents. Doyal also doesn’t have judicial duties, because he’s not an attorney and never holds court. Montgomery County, however, created a separate Office of Emergency Management, so Doyal does not really do anything other than to attend press conferences during disasters wearing a neat vest, so he’ll look active. Doyal does nothing with emergency management.
Therefore, in accordance with the Texas Constitution and the Texas Local Government Code, the Montgomery County Judge has two purposes:
- Presiding officer of the Commissioners Court.
- Represents the county in a few administrative functions.
In order to construct a zero-base budget, we must examine what personnel, the County Judge requires:
- First, and foremost, the County Judge requires himself. According to the May 8, 2018, Salary Survey of the Citizens Budget Committee, the County Judge should receive $101,595 in salary. In accordance with the current budget of the County Judge’s Department, his County benefits should be about 31.03% of that amount, or $31,525.
- In order to prepare the agendas and to offer coffee to the members of the Commissioners Court when they arrive for Court every two weeks, the County Judge probably does require a part-time secretary. According to Glassdoor.com, the average salary for a secretary in the Greater Houston area is $30,515. Doyal’s part-time secretary should then earn $15,258, plus benefits of $4,734.56.
In order to do all of their functions, the County Judge and his part-time secretary will need some stationery and supplies, which shouldn’t exceed more than about $2,000 total, which is actually a lot of supplies for one-and-a-half people.
The current County Judge budget includes $500 for “professional development.” In actuality, the County Judge spends about $475 per year attending professional conferences on how to be a County Judge. That’s a fair amount.
The County Judge currently has a $2300 mobile phone allowance, which seems completely unnecessary.
The County Judge receives $3,494 for travel expense, which also seems ridiculous.
The County Judge has $500 budgeted for printing but he doesn’t usually spend any of that money.
The County Judge has $3,500 for equipment rental, but he currently has five staff people. He still needs a copy machine, so his equipment rental should not be more than $2,500 per year including toner and maintenance.
Let’s do the math:
- County Judge Salary, Benefits = $133,120.
- Part-time Secretary Salary, Benefits = $19,992.56.
- Stationery and supplies = $2,000.
- Professional development = $475.
- Equipment rental = $2,500.
Total Fiscal Year 2019 Budget for the Montgomery County Judge, Department Account 110: $158,087.56.
The current Fiscal Year 2018 Budget for Craig Doyal’s County Judge Department is $570,173.
Little wonder the voters turned him out. (We just saved $412,085.44!)