@KingWm

Fayette County, Texas - Commissioners Court 8/3/2023

No One Calls Bluff, Judge To Get 10%?

Budget Deficit

It was another very short meeting at just over an hour.  Beyond the routine, there were three primary topics covered: certified tax rate (with explanation), budget fund balances and deficits (which contained an error on my part) and Senate Bill 22, which will bring new “perpetual” funding from the state for local law enforcement.  The big story?  They are proposing nearly a $1 million deficit and there was no discussion about making any cuts.

[Editor’s Note: Sorry for the poor audio.  This is NOT an official record.  There is a minute or less of audible private conversation cut out of this audio (I left short gaps).  Nothing controversial was cut out and there was little discussion by the Court at the time.]

See my updated budget and deficit research here (I think you will find it interesting):

https://kingwm.com/fayette-county-2023-budget-comparison-by-county-sheriff-and-ems-and-deficit-study/

All in all, after observing last year and this year, I am disappointed with the level of discussion this year.  After last week, I thought for sure there would be some discussion and debate this week related to the payroll tax increases but there was not.  I do not recall anyone asking for any cuts.  So far, all departments are getting everything they asked for, including massive payroll increases, and there has been no discussion of cuts.  There were a few other members of the public in the audience, but none had anything to say.  The budget will be approved at the next meeting and all discussions will take place behind closed doors until then.

I supported 5% raises last year and I support 5% raises this year.  I would likely support 7% raises for EMS and the Sheriff’s Office, but there has been little discussion on that, and I didn’t see any related budget numbers.  I empathize with their difficulty in finding and retaining personnel and agree help is needed.  In my opinion, 10% raises are too much this year, especially after the 5% raises last year.  Once payroll is increased, all the other expenses based on payroll increase too (like worker’s compensation insurance, pensions, etc.)  Remember, taxpayers are covering all the health insurance increases this year again too.  We already have a giant deficit, massive inflation and uncertainty on the horizon.  I predict we will need max tax increases over the next couple years to pay for these increases and the size of our government is going to grow rapidly.  Oh, and by the way, the Sheriff has already indicated that 10% this year may not be enough!  Either way, I think we should take the more fiscally conservative approach and re-evaluate the situation next year.

*** CORRECTION ***

The day before Court, I put together some budget data to compare Sheriff, jail and EMS budgets to surrounding counties.  When done, I noticed that our fund balance total is far less than surrounding counties.  I focused most of my comments in Court on that fund balance and asked some questions and made some pointed comments.  However, I was using year old budget data for Fayette County, so I thought last year was a ±$1 million deficit and that the fund balance was projected to be $3.6 million.  I found this alarming with another ±$1 million deficit in the works.  When expanding my research into budget deficits (to determine how serious such a large deficit would be), I learned I had used the wrong data.  With the new data, the fund balance is still too low, more like 2 months’ worth of expenses instead of 1.5, but the fund balance was much higher than I thought and trending upward.  With this new data, I see room for improvement (and it apparently is), but less alarm.  Please accept my apologies.  I am a little embarrassed, but it occurred to me that there were at least 6-8 elected officials and county employees in the room who all should have known what last year’s deficit was and that I was using old data.  We all should have known.  One of the Commissioners addressed my comments and so my research continues in that direction.

Audio Recording

Table of Contents (click a timestamp)

The budget information is usually near the end of the minutes package.