Category: 2010 Budget
From a North Texas History Center Press Release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
North Texas History Center given its largest donation
McKINNEY, Texas (March 18, 2010) – Plagued by financial troubles, the North Texas History Center was recently given a glimmer of hope.
This week, the NTHC received a special gift from a generous donor. This $20,000 contribution is the single largest unsolicited donation in the organization’s history.
“This contribution makes a huge difference to our ability to survive,” said Vicki Day, executive director at the NTHC. “Our funding problems aren’t solved, but this gives us hope to keep fighting every day.”
The donation was made by the Ruth LeVan Fund through the Renaissance Charitable Foundation in memory of Helen Gibbard Hall.
“We are so grateful for the support shown from those who care about preserving our history.” said Day.
About the North Texas History Center
Since 1957, the Collin County Historical Society, now known as the North Texas History Center, has been dedicated to collecting and preserving North Texas history. The NTHC shares local history with students from across North Texas and visitors from around the world. Located at 300 E. Virginia just east of the square in downtown McKinney, NTHC is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday thru Saturday.
For additional information, contact the North Texas History Center at (972) 542-9457 or visit our website www.northtexashistorycenter.org.
History museum loses funding, in jeopardy of closing
by STEVE STOLER / WFAA-TV
Posted on March 5, 2010 at 4:57 PM
Updated today at 5:54 PM
A rally will be held on the steps of the North Texas History Center in McKinney Saturday morning in an effort to drum up support to save it. The museum is in jeopardy of running out of money and closing its doors.
The building that houses the center is historic itself. It was built as a U.S. Post Office in 1911. Collin County now owns it and leases it to the history center. County commissioners, who act as landlords, recently decided to cut museum funding 75 percent and stop funding altogether next year. "I was surprised and horrified," said museum executive director Vicki Day.
The museum houses historic artifacts from five North Texas counties, from authentic flags, a covered wagon and civil war uniforms, to military weapons, a mask worn by Abraham Lincoln and slave shackles.
Students from area schools, including the Bonnema kids, often come to the center to learn hands-on about their heritage.
“It’s real-like. It’s not in a book. You can actually feel it,” said Boone Bonnema, a student. His grandfather, Arch Bonnema, also likes the hands-on approach. “It becomes more real to them when our grand kids can go there and try on clothes and actually touch and hold some of the old tools that our grandparents had to do to make things that are all electric for us."
History Center officials say they had a five-year plan to become self-sufficient without any county money. But the commissioners’ sudden move has left them struggling to find a way to survive. “If we're lost, that means history is lost. You can never retrieve it. It's gone forever," said Day.
Many of the supporters who will attend Saturday’s rally will be dressed in civil war uniforms. After the rally, they will march to the downtown McKinney square, where they will ask people to help save a local treasure.
History center in McKinney fighting to survive
Monday, March 1, 2010
By ED HOUSEWRIGHT / The Dallas Morning News
Vicki Day is trying to preserve the museum that preserves Collin County.
The 28-year-old North Texas History Center in downtown McKinney could close because of a sharp cut in county funding and private donations, said Day, executive director.
"We are in serious jeopardy of running out of money shortly," she said.
The museum took an unexpected financial hit when Collin County commissioners slashed its funding from $134,950 in fiscal 2009 to $32,000 this year, Day said.
"I was so surprised," she said.
Commissioners say they told Day last year the museum needed to become self-sufficient through private fundraising.
It had been receiving far greater county funding than other historical organizations, said County Judge Keith Self, who heads the Commissioners Court.
"The North Texas History Center is a wonderful organization, but they are just one of many historical organizations in the county," he said.
Commissioner Jerry Hoagland said the county had to focus limited funding on core functions, such as building roads and operating courts and the jail.
"These are tough economic times," he said. "You have to make cuts that are not always popular with people."
Civil War event
The history center had hoped a Civil War re-enactment last November at Myers Park in McKinney would raise $50,000. Instead, the event lost $7,000, worsening the museum's outlook, Day said.
Attendance didn't meet projections, and recent heavy rains prevented people from parking on the grounds, she said. As a result, organizers had to rent buses to take people to and from the park. In addition, insurance costs to hold the event exceeded expectations, Day said.
Commissioner Joe Jaynes, who took part in the Civil War re-enactment, voted against cutting the museum's funding. He said another year of higher county funding might have helped the center hold a successful Civil War event.
"Those re-enactments can basically be a cash cow, but you need three or four years to get it going," Jaynes said.
In search of help
Day said the history center may seek money from the city of McKinney, which currently does not provide funds. It may also approach the county commissioners again, she said.
"It's worth the county getting involved to help us survive," she said. "We've got a collection that is very unique."
About 8,000 students a year from Collin and surrounding counties visit the North Texas History Center, Day said.
On Friday, two fifth-grade classes from Daffron Elementary School in Plano attended and saw a Civil War exhibit.
"It's wonderful," said Cindy Burns, one of the teachers. "We teach the Civil War in school, and this really gives them the opportunity to see how it affected their ancestors."
The museum is housed in an old post office, built in 1911, at Virginia Parkway and Chestnut Street, a block off the square in downtown McKinney. It has exhibits with photographs and a variety of artifacts on the main floor and in the basement.
The museum has tried to sell memberships and get corporate sponsors for exhibits, but had little success, Day said. It receives revenue from school field trips, ticket sales and gift shop purchases.
The history center is holding a "Save the Museum" rally on its front steps on Saturday. It's also having a dinner and lecture on March 27 with Arch Bonnema, a Collin County resident who funded an expedition to Iran in search of Noah's ark. Tickets are $75.
"This could make a world of difference for us," Day said. "We hope we can clear about $7,000."
Jaynes said he hopes the museum can remain open. Although he supports it, he doesn't believe county commissioners will approve any additional funding.
"The court has let its will be known," Jaynes said.
The Observer comments:
My wife and I went to see the "Reluctant Confederate" exhibit at the NTHS last Saturday.
The building is a real jewel, and the exhibit was interesting and informative. Anyone interested in the history of their community will be entertained and educated by a trip to the North Texas History Center.
Note to Joe Jaynes -- put your Confederate uniform back on before the next court and fight a little harder for these guys. They deserve our support.
Along with the holidays, winter also brings the biannual campaign season. Once again, Collin County voters are being deluged by candidate and incumbent messages - virtually all proclaiming how conservative their guy is, much more conservative than the opponent.
I'm not going to get into a discussion here on the definition of "conservative". Suffice it to say that most voters expect their government to be careful stewards of taxpayers money. I think we can all agree that fiscally conservative government requires fiscally conservative leadership. I'd argue that the necessary leadership begins with how our leaders treat themselves, especially vis-à-vis to our tax dollars.
As I've said before, here in Collin County our leaders refer to themselves as "Elected Officials". I think the taxpayers would be much better served by "Public Servants". It's not just semantics. There is a huge difference between officials and servants. Officials are entitled to power and perks, servants simply serve.
It's a distinction often lost by incumbents who are routinely re-elected over and over again.
A case in point -
The Collin County Commissioners Court meets 4 times a month. This month, the last 2 meetings were canceled so that the "Officials" could enjoy their holidays.
These "Officials" make a heck of a lot of money. Keith Self's base salary is $136,073. Matt Shaheen's is $107,387 and Jerry Hoagland, Joe Jaynes and Kathy Ward each make $111,146. Totaling these court's salaries means that the taxpayers are paying $596,898 for a commissioners court that meets 48 times per year - that is over $12,000 in base salaries alone per meeting.
Collin County's budget is $270 million, therefore the salaries of our "Officials" is about 0.213% of the budget they control.
Contrast these numbers with, for example, that of the Plano City Council.
There are 7 council members, each makes a base salary of $6,000, while the mayor is allowed $8,400. The City Council meets twice a month (24 times a year). The cost to Plano taxpayers for councilmember salaries is therefore only $2,100 per meeting, or about 1/6th of the cost of a Commissioners Court session.
Plano has a larger budget than the county. The council's salaries amount to only 0.013% of their $388 million budget - about 1/20th of the county's salary to budget ratio.
For the next 2 weeks, the Collin County Commissioners Court will not meet. Our "Elected Officials" want to enjoy their holidays without being interrupted by pesky meetings and government business. (Meanwhile, most of their taxpayers will be at their jobs every working day.)
How about these "Officials" refunding us $24,000 we're paying for the two missed meetings?
Oh yea, the Plano City Council will meet on December 22.
A couple of weeks ago, County Judge Keith Self, with support from Commissioner Matt Shaheen, proposed that the county cap its popular rural gravel road paving program at 50 miles.
Self and Shaheen argued that stopping the paving would save asphalt inventories for next year, which they believe will be a much leaner budget year.
It was a goofy idea.
Monday, the court considered the idea of capping the paving program. Or to put it more accurately, on Monday, the court did everything it could to NOT consider capping the popular paving program.
The 10 Year Asphalt Program is in its 5th year. When the program started, the county contained about 480 miles of dirt and gravel roads. So far, over 262 miles of old dirt and gravel roads have been widened and replaced with safer, cleaner and more durable asphalt paving.
After a brief, (and he was urged by Self to remain 'brief'.) presentation by Public Works Director Jon Kleinheksel on the results so far of the 10 year paving program, and the savings realized by the reduced maintenance needed for paved, rather than gravel roads, Commissioner Ward spoke of the health and safety issues that result from old gravel roadways.
Judge Self was anxious to not have a debate, and he never called for a motion or a vote to cap the program. Instead, he moved on to the next agenda item as quickly as he could.
Since the 2010 budget maintains funding for the current rate of paving and inventories, the 10 year rural road paving program remains as it was before the County Judge's theatrics. This year, the Public Works Department is on track to asphalt 70 miles of rural, gravel roads.
Self's plan was goofy, and it never stood a chance of gaining a majority vote of the court.
Monday morning, the county commissioners court approved a $240.2 million budget for fiscal 2010 with only a few small last minute changes.
The budget passed by a 5 - 0 vote, making this year the first that I remember where Commissioner Jerry Hoagland voted FOR the budget.
The 2010 budget is less than 0.3% larger than last year and it breaks no little ground in new programs, discontinued programs, or improved services. The new budget calls for 1,794 county employees, a net increase of two.
Employees were held to an average 1-1/2% 'pay for performance' increase, while elected officials' salaries did not increase from 2009.
Despite rhetoric from a few commissioners who would like to characterize this year's tax burden as a 'cut', county tax revenues are expected to increase slightly from last year. However, the tax rate, set at $0.2425 per $100 in valuation, remains unchanged, making this year the 17th consecutive year with no tax rate increase. Those homeowners in the county who saw their valuations drop this year will get a tax cut, those whose valuations increased will see a comparable increase in their county taxes. The typical homeowner will realize a $3.48 reduction in 2010 county property taxes.
The commissioners also approved a 264 page "schedule of fees". These fees, ranging from court costs to dog pound charges, along with court fines total approximately 15% of the the county's revenue.
The FY 2010 Proposed Budget is here. (Note: big file - 952 kb)
The FY 2010 Schedule of Fees is here.
The FY 2010 Elected Officials' Salary list is here.
The FY 2010 property tax rate breakdown is here.
Almost since the first day after his election, County Judge Keith Self has tried to chart a new, more libertarian, populist course for the county commissioners court.
While the Collin County Observer has been generally critical of many of Judge Self's ideas, we have supported several of his initiatives, especially those relating to government transparency. From putting the county's checkbook online to broadcasting and recording county meetings, the Transparency Project has met its goal of making county government more accessible and accountable.
Self's efforts to rein in the cost of engineering contracts has also been supported by this blog. While we believe that it is not in the public interest to always go with the lowest bidder for road and bridge design, there has been too much of an 'insider' aspect to selecting engineering firms for large projects.
The scrutiny that resulted has reduced the cost of engineering service contracts to Collin County taxpayers.
However, far and away the most important issues facing the citizens of this county have to do with the growth of the county and the need for roads and more efficient transportation infrastructure. And on these issues, our County Judge is, well... nuttier than a Corsicana fruitcake
Collin County is one of the fastest growing counties in the nation. Our highways are all too frequently gridlocked - limiting growth potential, costing taxpayers uncounted millions in lost productivity and adding tons of exhaust to our already filthy air.
Yet one of Self's first public stances after taking office was to oppose the 2007 County Bond Program.
Among local elected officials, he stood alone. All 4 commissioners campaigned in favor of the bonds, which were overwhelmingly approved (2 - 1) by the voters.
Self wanted the county to use "pass through financing" from TxDOT to finance large construction projects, leaving the cities to pay for their own smaller secondary road improvements. His plan was a bad idea then and was soon proven to be a very, very bad idea, when not long after the election, the state killed the whole "pass through" program.
The Dallas Morning News, in an editorial after the election wrote, "Rookie Collin County Judge Keith Self was selling nonsense with his campaign to defeat a ballot proposition for road building. Voters, to their credit, weren't buying."
Earlier this year, he took his libertarian anti-transportation message to Austin where he was roundly castigated by several Texas Senators, including some from his own party for misrepresenting the Local Option Transportation Tax bill. Fellow Republican Senator John Carona of Richardson told Self that, "it seems to me that you do a disservice to the community by sending out the missives you've sent out before you even knew or understood what the bill said.... It is especially tragic that in a progressive part of the state like Collin County that this [Self] would represent the future leadership of the county."
Once again, the Dallas Morning News editorialized on Self's performance, calling it the "Keith Self side show", the News wrote, "Collin County Judge Keith Self has opposed bond elections to build roads, accused regional leaders of socialism and made fighting a bill that would give people the right to vote on rail expansion his top legislative priority. This week, he took his mischaracterizations of a rail expansion plan directly to the source, testifying before a Senate panel."
Last week, Judge Self stunned commissioners and court watchers with 2 presentations - both carrying the message to STOP road planning and construction.
In the first presentation, which was at the County Toll Road Authority portion of the meeting, Judge Self, speaking of the proposed Outer Loop, told the court that they should not be in a hurry to proceed with a $563,000 engineering study for Segment 3 because, as he said, "there is no hurry". Commissioners Jaynes, Ward and Hoagland disagreed. Jaynes pointed out that delay would cost the taxpayers $90,000/day in increased costs on the entire $4 billion Outer Loop program.
After an hour long discussion of engineering contract costs, property values and traffic projections, the court over-ruled Self's objections, voting to approve the contract 3 - 2. Commissioner Matt Shaheen voted along with Keith Self not to approve.
Despite Keith Self's objections, the county will continue to try to expedite the construction of the Outer Loop.
Later, in a heated discussion over projects to be assigned to the county's new citizen's Efficiency Committee, Keith Self, again supported by Matt Shaheen, floated the idea to stop this year's rural road asphalting program at 50 miles.
In 2004, the county committed to paving all 763 miles of county-maintained dirt roads within 10 years. The year to year goal has been to asphalt at least 50 miles per year - and every year, the county has exceeded its goal. This year, the public works department is on track to complete 70 miles.
Judge Self wants the county to stop paving at 50 miles and to warehouse the inventory of asphalt aggregate for next year. His reasoning is that the county would save money next year, because it would not have to purchase as much road making aggregate next year, when budget crunches could be harder.
Once again, Judge Self wanted to stop road construction, saying "We want to be husbanding our assets for next year".
Jaynes retorted, "If stopped doing anything, we wouldn't spend anything!"
Shaheen went on to explain that the county had "excess" inventories of aggregate totaling about $1.5 to $2 million. If construction were to stop, these inventories would be carried over to next year, saving the need to purchase as much in FY 2010.
Jerry Hoagland pointed asked that if there were excess inventories, "why wouldn't we use it up now?".
Joe Jaynes reacted to Self's idea with shock and indignation exclaiming that, "To say that you're at 50 [miles] and you have to stop is just government control at its worst. We have 300 days of reserves. The sky is not falling. It's going to be tougher next year, quite probably in appraised value but its not like we're some county in West Texas. And to tell these guys to cap it at 50 [miles], when we can go further is just like some of this short-sightedness we are seeing in some of these other things. We're worried about today, and not looking at the future."
"Now is the time to be doing this", said Jaynes, "not stopping."
Later in the week, Jaynes sent an email to his supporters:
Battle lines are being drawn.
Hoagland and Jaynes believe strongly that the future development of the county requires continued investment in the transportation infrastructure. So far Ward has voted with Jaynes and Hoagland.
Self, with some support from Matt Shaheen, has tried to slow or stop virtually every mobility project in the works.
As a leader of a county that desperately needs tens of billions of dollars for transportation investment, he seems nuttier than a Corsicana fruitcake.
To see an illustration of the difference between a service oriented company and your county government, look at how each treat their clients.
For example, at every company I've worked for, customers get the best parking spots, and employees park in the back. Go to a mall early on a Saturday morning - all the employees are parked way out at the end of the lots, leaving the close-in spaces for customers.
Now go visit the new county commissioners building (Jack Hatchell Administration Building) on Bloomfield Rd.
When you drive up, all the close in parking is marked "EMPLOYEES", citizens must drive around the back, or park in the outer lots.
Unfortunately, I'll bet none of our elected commissioners ever noticed. Most of them, although they spout conservative slogans, have worked for the government their whole lives.
Service is best learned in the marketplace.
It used to be that our elected leaders called themselves "Public Servants". When was the last time you heard that term used at the county courthouse? Here is Collin County, they refer to themselves as "Elected Officials".
Monday night, the commissioners court will hold its 2nd public hearing on the budget. In its simplest terms, the county budget is a plan to take the taxpayers money, and return it to them in services. I think that much of the time, the 'services' aspect gets lost in the debates over priorities, surpluses and deficits.
Perhaps budget time is the appropriate time to ask our elected commissioners to reflect on the meaning of 'service' and to ask them to consider themselves not as our officialdom but as our servants, serving the needs of their clients - the taxpayers.
We may then ask our public servants to consider service in their decisions on appropriations for public safety and indigent health care.
The public hearing on the budget will be at 6 PM, Monday, September 21 at the First Baptist Melissa, 2600 State Highway 121, Melissa, TX 75454.
Thursday, the Collin County Health Care Advisory Board met to consider their recommendations for the "fee for service" (formerly "grant") health care agreements for fiscal 2010.
The board had received 8 applications. They approved all at at requested funding levels.
The recipients are:
- Allen Community Outreach, $17,400 for vision and prescription services.
- Assistance Center of Collin County, $10,590 for prescription drugs.
- Children's Medical Center, $24,900 for 415 sick child visits.
- Collin County Adult Clinic, $49,980 for 1,428 clinic visits.
- Community Lifeline of McKinney, $4,500 for prescriptions and medical supplies.
- Frisco Family Services, $4,500 for prescriptions.
- Geriatric Wellness Center, $16,600 for 750 clinic visits and 25 homebound visits.
- Samaritan Inn, $20,100 for clinic visits and referrals.
The board also voted to keep $53,000 in reserve for additional applications from non-profit agencies.
Fiscal 2010 will be the first time the county has funded programs with the Samaritan Inn and with Children's Medical Center. Both agencies have applied for funding in past years, but their requests were not approved. The Samaritan Inn is Collin County's only homeless shelter. They plan to use the funding for co-pay, referrals and prescriptions for their clients to use at community clinics.
Children's Medical Center is a large non-profit hospital in Dallas. It has opened clinics in Collin County, and the county funds will be used to provide visits to poor, uninsured children in Collin County.
While the county's total outlay will not go up, most of the non-profit agencies that are recommended for funding will see a substantial increase from their 2009 funding since fewer agencies applied and were approved.
Noticeably absent from the list of applications are the Collin County Committee on Aging, which received $45,000 last year for its Meals on Wheels program. According to the Health Department's Michelle Patrick, the Committee on Aging missed the application deadline due to confusion caused by a turnover in personnel.
Also missing from the list of applications was the Plano Children's Medical Clinic. The Children's Clinic was the first non-profit to receive county grant funds in 2005. Last year it was granted $21,000 down dramatically from the $50,000 awarded to it in prior 2 years. This year, the clinic chose not to apply for an agreement, citing the burdensome restrictions and paperwork imposed on it by the county. In 2008, two other charitable clinics declined the county grant money, citing privacy concerns with the newly required paperwork.
The Bridge Breast Network, which received $37,500 last year also did not file an application. The reason for the omission was not clear.
The Commissioners Court will consider the board's recommendations when it makes the final awards later this month. The county had budgeted $200,000 for the program, and the advisory board is asking that the $53,000 not awarded be held in reserve and that the application process be re-opened so that the missing agencies would have another opportunity to file their request. The board was particularly concerned that the Meals on Wheels program not miss out on funding for 2010.
The Health Care Advisory Board is a volunteer, citizen advisory board; members serve without pay. Each County Commissioner and the County Judge appoint 2 citizens to serve a term on the board. The board can only make recommendations. The Commissioners Court will make the final decisions.
All awarded funding is dependent on county approval on each client or patient served. Funding is only allowed for clients who are county residents, US citizens, with incomes below 100% of the Federal Poverty Level.
Last week, after 2 days of budget hearings, the county commissioners' court recommended a 'no tax rate increase' budget for fiscal year 2010 which begins October 1, 2009.
Total combined budget (all funds) will be just under $270 million. and the operating funds budget will be about $174 million - which is a small(less than 1%) increase over last year. The budget balances revenues to expenses so that no deficit or draw down from reserves is anticipated. (The county has over 300 days of reserves - close to a full year's operating budget)
The county expects total revenues of $270 million, of which $174.2 million is from property taxes, and the balance is from fines, user fees and service charges.
Since the tax rate remained the same, but average property values declined, the typical homeowner will pay about $3.20 less in county taxes next year as opposed to this year.
The county will employ 1,093 employees and the employees will get an average 2% salary increase; however elected officials will get no raises in 2010.
Some highlights from the 2 day workshop included department heads who were appealing items that had already been cut from the proposed budget.
- The first appeal was made by Precinct 1 Constable Paul Elkins, who wanted $1,400 dollars, in part to pay for a camera to be used in traffic and illegal dumping enforcement. The Constable told the commissioners that these items would pay for themselves with just 17 collected traffic fines averaging $82 each.
He got the money. Correction: He got nothing.
- Next was retiring District Clerk Hannah Kunkle who asked for an delinquent tax collection clerk. The position would be paid 1/2 by attorney David McCall (who has the contract to collect delinquent taxes for the county.) Kunkle offered to pay the other half from the document preservation fund, which are fees collected from all users of the clerk's office. The document preservation fund currently has a balance of $600 thousand. the court will readdress this at the budget hearings. They wanted a legal opinion on whether the use of preservation funds would be legal.
- Judge Johnny Lewis, the justice of the Peace in Plano's JP court 3-1, asked for an additional clerk. Once again, he used fines revenue to justify his need for additional resources. Judge Lewis noted that in 2005 his court had a budget of $270 thousand and collected $260 thousand in fines. But in 2009 the budget was $318 thousand while collected fines and fees were over $800 thousand.
Later, on Tuesday, the court moved one clerk from Judge Raleeh's Court to Precinct 2 in Wylie, and one clerk from Judge Yarbrough to Plano. Judge Raleeh volunteered, but the pull from Yarbrough was imposed by the court.
The total number of constable deputies will remain the same, but Precinct 2 Constable Joe Barton and Precinct 3 Constable Chuck Presley will each gain one deputy, and Precinct 1, and Precinct 4 will each give up one.
It was just last week that Presley told the Commissioners that he could begin traffic patrol because his staff had free time.
Commissioner Jaynes told the court that he was concerned that constables working traffic had effective policies in place to avoid issues such as the chase that occurred in Dallas last month.
The shuffling of JPs and constables is the direct result of the redistricting done earlier this year.
- District Attorney John Roach asked for additional staff in the family services division. Two positions were put into a contingency fund, until the caseload numbers could be verified and tracked.
-Tax Assessor Collector Kenneth Maun requested 6 additional staff, but under intense questioning led by Commissioner Shaheen, Maun could not quantify any savings gained from new technologies implemented in 2009, nor did he have any data on costs of not getting the new clerks. He got nothing.
-Health Administrator Candy Blair found herself defending her budget, since her actual spending has been much lower than budget.
Jerry Hoagland objected to the Health Care budget, saying that the Health Care Trust Fund was spending more than its income. He wanted to lower the maximum income standard for indigent care, eliminate the non-profit grants and the Prima Care programs. He didn't get his way.
In the end, the court cut $500,000 from the health care department budget that they felt was simply padding. The court did tell Ms. Blair that if an emergency required more funds, she could come back to the court later in the year and request additional funds.
-There was a lot of discussion over professional memberships. The court did discuss pulling out of the Texas Association of Counties.
Judge Self and Commissioner Shaheen have disagreements with some of the positions TAC has taken in its lobbying efforts. At one point Judge Self stated, "[The TAC] seem to spend all their time fighting tax cuts for citizens".
After much discussion, the $2,400 membership dues to TAC was approved, as was the $19,000 in dues to the Conference of Urban counties. However Collin County will pull out of the regional planning coalition, TEX21.
Other departments will be required to limit membership to three professional organizations.
-There were a few sharp exchanges over two proposals by Judge Self to cut staff - in the Agriculture Extension Office and in County Administration. Self justified both cuts saying that the ratio of support staff to professionals was too high. Self took umbrage at comments made by both Joe Jaynes and Kathy Ward who stated that the cuts were being made "because you can" and without any supporting data. The court defeated both personnel cuts in a 3-2 vote.
There will be two public hearings on the proposed budget - Monday, September 14 at 9:30 AM and Monday September 21 at 6:30 PM.
The final budget will be approved at the September 28th meeting and go into effect on October 1.
Despite all the open government rhetoric from the County Judge and Commissioners, the Collin County Commissioners Court took a giant step backwards in government transparency in this year's budget deliberations.
Last year, the commissioners court held 5 days of public hearings on the fiscal 2009 budget. Those hearings included presentations by all department heads and by many elected officials. The hearings were held in the commissioners court room, they were video taped, the videos were posted on the web and minutes were taken and also posted on the county's web site.
Not so this year. They took the budget hearing 'on the road'.
This year, the commissioners court instead scheduled meetings with most departments at the departments' own offices in various locations throughout McKinney. These meetings were held on June 8, June 15, June 22, July 13, July 20 and July 27. While notices of the meetings were, as the law requires, publicly posted, no citizens were in attendance. No video record appears to have been made of any of these meetings (except the first, held on June 8 in the commissioners' court room) and no minutes have been posted.
The commissioners, in effect, gave themselves a free ride to meet outside the public view for 5 different budget meetings.
Perhaps the no show by taxpayers wasn't entirely the court's responsibility, but posting minutes is.
While minutes for the regular sessions of the commissioners court meetings on June 15, June 22, July 13 and July 20 have been approved by the court and posted on the county's web site, none of these minutes make any mention of any budget discussions held on those dates.
Section 551.021 Of the Texas Government Code requires that minutes or a tape recording be made and made public for all open meetings of the commissioner court.
As of today, no such minutes of 5 of these meetings have been posted on the web or sent to the court for approval. I am beginning to doubt they exist. The budget hearing on June 5 (Homeland Security and Fire Marshall) was taped and is posted on the web.
The court will conduct 2 days of public budget discussions on Monday and Tuesday (August 17 & 18). The 2 day meeting will include many of the departments' budgets that were already discussed in the previous non-recorded meetings. What the public will see might be only what the court wants the public to see - there will be no way for citizens to know what has already been discussed and decided on.
As a part of the budget meetings to be held this week, the court will determine the salary increases for all elected officials. Last year, the court appointed a citizen's committee to recommend elected officials raises - this year no such panel was appointed, but it is expected that the court will not be granting any salary increases to any elected officials.
The court will also have to give notice of and set the tax rate for FY 2010. No changes to the current rate is expected. After the court approves the new tax rate, it will, in accordance with state law, schedule 2 public hearings on the tax rate and budget.