Montgomery County DA, sheriff’s department requests supported in proposed budget

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The Montgomery County District Attorney and Sheriff’s Department could see several needed positions filled in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget following discussions at a July 30 budget workshop.

Montgomery County Commissioners Court will meet at 1 p.m. Aug. 1 to consider and vote on a proposed tax rate.

Montgomery County Budget Officer Amanda Carter said the preliminary 2020 budget totals $365,063,261. The effective tax rate, which is the amount needed to raise the same tax revenue as last year, is $0.4475 per $100 valuation. The current county property tax rate is $0.4667 per $100 valuation.

Among the department requests presented, District Attorney Brett Ligon asked for a justice of the peace prosecutor and a child death investigator. Both positions will total $183,897 for salaries and benefits.

The JP misdemeanor prosecutor will conduct a variety of tasks, including representing the state of Texas and handling case intake, plea negotiations, investigations, preparation and trial. The position is needed due to an increasing number of JP filings throughout the years, with a total of 69,800 in the past year, Ligon said.

The child death investigator will be responsible for responding to both child deaths and physical abuse cases. Information from Ligon indicates there have been a total of 17 child death investigations in Montgomery County this year as of May 1 and 35 for 2018. The number of physical abuse investigations has increased as well, with 319 cases in 2017 and 498 in 2018.

Among the other duties, the investigator will act as a subject matter expert to represent the county in court.

The commissioners agreed to include the positions on the condition Ligon provides the commissioners $100,000 from asset forfeiture and Precinct 4 Commissioner James Metts providing for a car out of the Precinct 4 budget. The positions will cost the county $83,897 for the two positions.

Sheriff Rand Henderson said of the 20 positions he is requesting to have filled, totaling $2.1 million for salaries, benefits and operational needs, the most needed position is a special victims sergeant.

“The sergeant that is currently overseeing them … is seeing a span of 20,” Henderson said. “Law enforcement best practices are anywhere from five to seven.”

Henderson added he needs a patrol unit for The Woodlands as well, but is hesitant to add the request until incorporation for the township is decided. The Woodlands Township is conducting a study into whether it should incorporate into a city, but a decision or planned vote date has not been established.

Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack proposed allowing Henderson to use the leftover money he has from vacant positions as he needs throughout the year based on salary variance. Positions created by the method would need to be included in the 2021 budget.

Henderson has a 5% vacancy rate in his department, totaling around $1.2 million in salary variance, he said.

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