Commissioners were seeking to establish a budget for the 2022 Short Fiscal Year (SFY) which will run from March to September, allowing the county to transition to planning budgets based on a fiscal year that begins each October.
The $1.3 billion for SFY 2022 and the $2.2 billion plan for the following full year prepared by County Administrator David Berry added funds for law enforcement and included an increase in 2% salary for all county employees. The plan, however, only funded 18% of requests from traditional law enforcement, made up of the sheriff, the eight county police officers, the district attorney’s office and the fire marshal.
Following the release of Berry’s draft budget last week, Commissioner Tom Ramsey (R-Pct.3) blasted the proposal as “irresponsible and unacceptable during a crime pandemic.”
Ramsey and Commissioner Jack Cagle (R-Pct. 4) submitted alternative budget proposals that would meet law enforcement demands while cutting spending and positions in other departments.
by Ramsey proposal added 500 law enforcement positions, including 275 patrol officers, while cutting funds for bureaucracy and other departments, including legislative relations, a commissioners’ court analyst, the Department of administration of justice and the assessment district – which he noted had increased their budget by 25%.
He offered to cut funds for a health department program that would send social workers instead of police officers, and $1.2 million for the community services department for a veterans program that had been transferred to another department.
Ramsey and Cagle also proposed cuts to the office of the Administrator of Elections, which was created in 2020 when Democrats in the Commissioners’ Court voted to remove election administration from the elected county clerk and elected registrar of voters.
“We were promised that when we had an election administrator, efficiency would improve when we took it away from two duly elected officials,” said Ramsey, who noted that the county was instead spending a lot more on elections.
Cagle supported Ramsey’s proposal and offered his own, saying the budget should reflect the needs and wants of taxpayers.
“What we hear on the streets is that they want the crime problem solved and they don’t want to see their taxes go up,” Cagle said. “They’ve tightened their belts, and they want us, the taxpayers, to do the same.”
Cagle said he used the 2018 county budget as a benchmark and incorporated requests from law enforcement to create his proposal, which refocused on basic services.
County Judge Lina Hidalgo called Ramsey and Cagle’s proposals “dystopian” and said they would cut 1,000 jobs in other departments and jeopardize many programs administered by the public health department.
Ramsey responded that his proposal cut 362 jobs, 300 of which were not even filled, and that only 62 non-law enforcement jobs would be cut while adding personnel to traditional law enforcement operations.
“When we had 600 murders last year, our top three priorities are crime, crime and crime,” Ramsey said.
Commissioner Rodney Ellis (D-Pct. 1) complained that due to the Republican opposition to tax increases and the preference for tax cuts, the county had $200 trillion less this year than it would have otherwise. He also lamented a State Law passed in 2019 that limited the amount the county could raise taxes without voter approval.
Commissioner Adrian Garcia (D-Pct. 2) moved an amendment to direct the county administrator to develop a plan to grant all sheriff’s deputies and police deputies, excluding senior officers , an increase of 3%. To do this, Garcia proposed using road bond funds, effectively borrowing to provide the salary supplements through fiscal year 2022.
Garcia said his plan would cost $4.1 million in SFY and another $7 million the following year.
During a press conference Monday with Commissioner Adrian Garcia (D-Pct. 2), County Judge Lina Hidalgo said the new budget will continue the county’s commitment to public health and public safety. .
“Violent gun crime in Harris County and across the United States, especially in metropolitan areas, is on the rise,” Hidalgo said. “And we all have a responsibility to lean in and do what we can to deal with it.”
Hidalgo said more traditional policies fail to address the root causes and the county needs to address the “weapons of war” in the community. She pointed to programs that added streetlights, trees and sidewalks while demolishing vacant buildings, and also cited efforts to address the backlog of cases, violence interruption programs and health programs. mental.
In the county administrator’s budget, Hidalgo also noted that there was funding for 400 new vehicles and for additional staff at the jail, courts and criminal investigations office.
“70% of the new budget is for justice and security initiatives,” Hidalgo said.
After the budget vote, Ramsey lamented the lack of commitment to fund law enforcement needs and added: “It is also concerning that they have approved borrowing money from government bonds. infrastructure to fund pay raises for law enforcement..”
“Not only does this impact our funding of infrastructure projects, it is an inappropriate use and an unsustainable source of funding..”