New Commissioner Gets Feet Wet

Harris County's mid-year budget review is out. It recommends no change in the tax rate, but county departments must find ways to operate with less money.

After Harris County Judge Ed Emmett administered the oath of office to Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle, it was down to work with the mid-year budget review.

Judge Emmett calls the situation “stable,” which is not always a good thing.

“Because we went down so much last year, to stay stable with that creates some problems. But as Dr. Raycraft mentioned, he’s coming with a reorganization plan, and I take that as a good sign, and when we start doing to budget for next year, then we need to take that reorganization into consideration.”

Commissioners and department heads need to see if any more layoffs will need to be made in light of declining revenue. One exception might be coming from Sheriff Adrian Garcia.

He went before the court to reiterate his request for more full time workers to save money by not having to pay so much overtime.

Judge Emmett agrees:

“Because that costs the taxpayer too much money. I understand the Office of Management and Services’ problem, is that if they don’t have the money for the new positions. And of course when you create a new position, you’re talking about more than just salary. You’re talking about benefits and long term retirement and everything.”

There will be authorization for temporary positions for detention officers, converting some current temporary positions to permanent positions, and moving some people into supervisory positions.

Emmett says the situation with Sheriff Garcia is not unique just to his department.

“That’s been across the board, and hopefully coming from where we are now and this budget, into next year’s budget. Again, I know I’m a bit of a broken record — the zero-based budgeting approach — we really need to go back and say ‘What should we be spending our money on?,’ and I think we’ll get more of that in this next budget cycle.”

Commissioners will now study recommendations made by budget director Dick Raycraft before they return to approve the recommendations to keep the county operating.

New Commissioner Jack Cagle says he tried to absorb as much as he could while taking part in his first mid-year budget review.

“There are so many complex issues that the county has to deal with right now that I’m still wrapping my arms around, getting my feet into. But I want to commend my staff for helping me be prepared for today’s meeting and for what we’re about to begin, and I’ve got a lot of homework still to do.”