There may be a county budget deal available

I don’t trust anything Commissioners Cagle and Ramsey say, but we’ll see.

The two Republican members of Harris County Commissioners Court said Friday they would attend a special meeting Monday to discuss a compromise tax rate proposal by Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia, potentially ending a monthlong impasse that has held up budgetary decisions and become a significant issue in November’s county judge and commissioners races.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle said he would attend the meeting if he was assured no vote would take place.

The county attorney’s office confirmed Friday afternoon that the purpose of the meeting is for court members to have a discussion and that no final vote on a tax rate can occur.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey announced he would attend the meeting a short time later.

The two Republican commissioners have skipped the last three Commissioners Court meetings to block the three Democrats on the court from adopting a property tax rate. They view the Democrat-supported rate as too high at a time residents are dealing with the highest inflation in years amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. They also want the county to fund more law enforcement.

Garcia’s proposal, unveiled in a Friday morning news conference, would set the overall property tax rate at 56.3 cents per $100 of assessed value, 1.2 cents lower than the rate originally proposed by the Democratic majority.

The current overall county tax rate is 58.1 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Under the rate of 57.5 cents originally proposed by the Democrats, the owner of a $250,000 home with a standard 20 percent homestead exemption would save about $12 in the first year, assuming the appraised value was unchanged from the previous year.

Under Garcia’s proposal, that homeowner would pay $36 less.

Garcia’s plan calls for an additional $20 million to hire 200 additional law enforcement officers, echoing Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey’s call for 200 additional law enforcement “boots on the ground.” It also includes a 2.5 percent pay increase for law enforcement officers.

“Today I make you my final offer,” Garcia said. “It checks every box that each of my colleagues has stated as a priority. … If my Republican colleagues continue to refuse to show up to work, it proves, once and for all, they had no intention on getting any deal done.”

State law requires a quorum of at least four members to set the property tax rate. The court has until Oct. 28 to set the tax rate. Failure to come to an agreement would force the county to adopt what is known as the “no new revenue rate,” a levy that generates the same amount of money as the previous year. In Harris County’s case, the no new revenue rate would include an additional $45 million from developed properties added to the tax roll this year.

Again, this is a legislative minority getting to set the terms because of an anti-majoritarian component of our state constitution. If we are going to bring up the quorum-busting by Democratic State House members again, I will remind you that 1) unlike the State House Dems, Commissioners Cagle and Ramsey can do their thing from the comfort of their homes – they do not have to flee to another state to avoid being detained by the cops and dragged back to the county courthouse; and 2) the Republican legislative majority eventually got everything they wanted and all they had to do was wait it out, while the Democratic Commissioners Court majority has no choice but to negotiate. Either way, they cannot do what they would have done if the two Republican Commissioners didn’t have this power. These are two very different situations.

As far as the fear that somehow the three Democratic members of Commissioners Court will suddenly appear, gavel them into an official meeting, and pass their preferred budget before they can abscond again, the following is from the Harris County Attorney’s office:

Harris County Commissioners Court has issued a notice for a special meeting on Monday, October 17 that will focus on proposed tax rates and changes to the budget.

In response to members of court claiming they will skip the meeting because of concerns that a tax rate may be adopted, Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee issued the following statement:

“There is no ‘vagueness’ about whether Commissioners Court can adopt a tax rate at Monday’s special meeting. The answer is no. Nor does the court having the Monday meeting mean that they could adopt a tax rate at some subsequent meeting with fewer than four members present.

If any member of court plans to skip Monday’s meeting, they should be honest about why, and not claim that they’re doing so out of fear that a tax rate could be adopted.”

State law requires that prior to a Commissioners Court holding a tax hearing those rates must first be noticed to the public at least 5 days prior to the hearing. Any vote to adopt those rates must take place after the hearing but not later than 7 days after the hearing.

Like I said, we’ll see. I don’t trust these guys and neither should you. Even if there’s an agreement reached, it was done under ridiculous circumstances. The Adrian Garcia deal, if that’s what we get, is fine as it is, it’s the process that’s the problem.

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3 Responses to There may be a county budget deal available

  1. Jonathan Freeman says:

    Commissioner Ramsey put this out yesterday so I wouldn’t bet on any del just yet.

    “Commissioner Tom Ramsey Rescinds Counter Proposal Amid Concerns for Upcoming Meeting
    Harris County, TX – The chaos and mass confusion continues around Harris County’s budget and tax vote issue. Commissioner Tom Ramsey released a counter proposal on Friday with honest intentions on a solution that would fund the taxpayers’ priorities, while also being fiscally responsible with their money. He was hopeful in attending Monday’s special meeting of a “discussion”; however, vagueness around the “possible action” in that meeting paired with Tuesday’s meeting details leaves the door open to take other actions relating to the massive tax increase. Commissioner Ramsey is officially rescinding his offer and will not be attending Monday’s meeting.

    Here’s what Commissioner Tom Ramsey had to say:

    “Commissioner Garcia stated his proposal from yesterday was his final offer. I am rejecting his offer and rescinding mine. I don’t trust Judge Hidalgo or Commissioners Garcia and Ellis because their actions speak louder than words. For example:

    They’ve retaliated against Precinct 3 and 4 residents three courts in a row by unnecessarily blocking our projects from approval. Commissioner Garcia misled a resident on the September 27th meeting saying he can’t pass a project, because we’re not in attendance. But he then moves to pass the same exact project for approval the following court meeting, after buckling under the pressure of the residents who showed up to call his bluff.
    The Tuesday, October 18th special meeting has the $256M tax revenue increase as the official proposal to be considered. Why did she schedule her emergency meeting for Monday, October 17th knowing nothing can be changed about the proposal on Tuesday’s meeting? She could’ve scheduled it for Wednesday or Thursday to still meet the adoption deadline.
    Nearly a year ago, to this day, they approved the historic and chaotic redistricting map with no regard to how it would disrupt the residents. Judge Hidalgo admittedly chose this map because it opened the door to unseat Commissioner Cagle and would allow for a 4-1 vote on a future tax rate.
    Judge Hidalgo and Commissioners Garcia and Ellis have made Harris County more partisan than it has ever been due to their political games. Our jobs are supposed to be simple – maintain roads, bridges, parks, community centers, offer community programming, and handle emergency operations.

    The sad part is the ones who’ve suffered the most these past four years are our residents. Our residents are paying more for the implementation of seven departments since 2019, a private security contract, and even for a consultant who believes our Constables are not necessary. We even have employees who are indicted for bid-rigging with taxpayer dollars.

    Trust is at an all-time low with Harris County. I don’t trust Judge Hidalgo or her leadership to do the right thing. Therefore, I will not be attending Monday’s meeting.”

  2. David Fagan says:

    45 days and counting………….

  3. Pingback: Republican Commissioners skip the meeting they called – Off the Kuff

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