Montgomery County Commissioners Court to Host Public Hearing Regarding Proposed Budget Cuts

By: Hannah Brown
| Published 08/12/2019

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THE WOODLANDS, TX — In the most recent round of budget discussions, Montgomery County officials pushed forward with a plan to begin reducing funding for area nonprofits.

“For the first time ever, the court held a full-day public comment workshop on our budget, before we even began the budget workshops later in the week,” County Judge Mark Keough said. The public budget workshop was held in an effort to draft the county’s budget with residents’ concerns and priorities in mind.

Many of those concerns revolved around a perceived dearth of law enforcement services, including critical intervention officers who may assist in dire mental health emergencies. Keough stated that, “Per several personnel studies that our sheriff has conducted, we are still behind in the number of law enforcement positions we have based off our population size.” The county, he said, hopes to put a major dent in the law enforcement deficit by diverting funds away from community organizations without increasing the tax rate. In fact, Keough estimated the average homeowner in the county should see a $42.00 reduction in property taxes paid in the 2020 fiscal year, for overall savings of $9.8 million.

But not everyone is enthusiastic about the budget’s proposed trajectory. Meals on Wheels, along with the Crisis Assistance Center, Montgomery County Women’s Center, and Montgomery County Youth Services, is among the community nonprofits which may affected by county funding changes, and the organization may see a total loss of funding from the county as early as March 2020. Summer Day, the Executive Director for Meals on Wheels of Montgomery County, said the services her organization provides go beyond handing out meals to local seniors. As the proportion of elderly persons in Montgomery County continues to swell, she sees the program as a way to save costs elsewhere.

“We can feed a senior for a year for less than the cost of a one-day stay in the hospital,” Day said, and “more than 50% of seniors admitted to the emergency room are malnourished.”

Then there’s the question of what organizations do with funding administered by the county. Judge Keough revealed that, in recent months, he, along with the District Attorney’s Office and the County Attorney’s Office, “have worked to end some abuses within a non-profit that was receiving over $130,000 dollars per year in Montgomery County tax payers’ money.” On this point, Summer Day contends that because of the large volunteer infrastructure Meals on Wheels has amassed, it provides the community with services at a much lower cost than the county could. “We serve the entire 1,000 square miles of county with less than a 10 percent overhead rate,” said Day.

Ultimately, disagreement over the budget boils down to differing views on the role of local government. “I think that we all want to see our tax dollars used for the greater good and at the same time, not being flushed into superficial projects or programs that do not have long-term benefits. I know there are many needs in our county and the court has the responsibility to allocate resources based on the importance and urgency of those needs,” Day continued. “Our mission and purpose is to take care of those that once took care of us.” Keough, echoing the sentiments of many present at the budget workshop, thinks “taxpayer dollars should not be used to fund nonprofit organizations in the form of blanket donations. The public has every right to fund them with [private] donations, but utilizing taxation as a way to fund them is not the proper role for government.” During our discussion, he offered that the county, recognizing that organizations like Meals on Wheels provide a valuable community service, could instead employ a fee-for-service model, rather than providing blanket funds to nonprofits.

The Montgomery County Commissioners Court will hold a public hearing regarding the proposed budget for fiscal year 2020 on August 13 and will vote to adopt the budget and tax rate on September 4. The August 13 hearing will begin at 9:00 a.m. in Conroe.

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