The budget calendar was set in April, and public workshops—where department heads present requests to county commissioners for consideration in the final budget—took place Aug. 2-3. The proposed budget, which includes any amendments from workshops, was posted on the county budget website Aug. 19.
Exceeding no-new-revenue rate
The preliminary tax rate was approved Aug. 9, after the Montgomery Central Appraisal District failed to certify 2022 appraisal values in time for budget workshops. The $0.3764 per $100 of taxable value is a decrease from the 2021-22 rate of $0.4083 but is higher than the county’s no-new-revenue rate of $0.3312, triggering the Aug. 26 special session.
County officials said several law enforcement requests, including adding positions to the sheriff’s office and constable positions as well as a request to renegotiate the county’s interlocal agreement with The Woodlands Township, resulted in the proposed rate.
The county will also spend $693,805 in its 2022-23 budget to launch its new County Court at Law 6. Judge Scharlene Valdez was sworn in Aug. 15, although she will only be able to hear the full scope of her cases beginning Sept. 1, Valdez told Community Impact Newspaper.
In her memo to commissioners, attached to the proposed budget, budget officer Amanda Carter said economic development payments for tax increment reinvestment zones—which are intended to attract developments to areas—and Chapter 381 agreements, which allow governments to offer loans and grants of public money to stimulate development according to the Texas Comptroller’s Office—were another reason for the preliminary tax rate.
According to records provided by county Tax Assessor-Collector Tammy McRae, Montgomery County is estimated to pay $3.19 million in TIRZ payments in fiscal year 2022-23 for three zones covering the cities of Conroe, Willis and Oak Ridge North. The county will also pay $4.44 million in Chapter 381 agreements with six entities: The Valley Ranch Town Center, Audubon Magnolia, Conroe Municipal Management, Granger Pines, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Magnolia Springs.
Other factors in the $0.3764 rate include a 5% increase in salaries for all county employees, including commissioners. Montgomery County had not approved raises for the 2021-22 fiscal year despite discussions, and commissioners cited a cost-of-living adjustment for the planned raise.
Carter and County Auditor Rakesh Pandey confirmed to Community Impact Newspaper that several sources of revenue outside of property taxes were down due to issues with the COVID-19 pandemic, including court fees.
“With COVID, the justice of the peace fees ... obviously we didn’t have a lot of evictions and such,” Pandey said.