By LeaAnne Klentzman
Fort Bend County Commissioners Court approved the 2012 budget in late September and as of October 1, the new fiscal year began.
The total adopted budget to run Fort Bend County for fiscal year 2012 is $252,079,490.00. During budget preparation, elected officials and department heads were encouraged to cut their operating budgets, or at the very least maintain their 2011 expenditures. According to the budget summary, 2012’s budget is 5.18% over that of 2011.
The operating budgets for elected officials changed very little from 2011 to 2012. The county judge’s budget shows a decrease of -.02%. His budget in 2011 was $516,782, and for 2012 it is $516,700. Commissioner Pct.1 (Richard Morrison) had an increase of .23% from 2011 to 2012, from $378,429. to $379,300. Commissioner Pct 2 (Grady Prestage) also had a slight increase of .26%; $507,341 in 2011 to $508,667. For 2012, Pct. 3 Commissioner (Andy Meyers) shows a decrease of .75% from $394,453. to $391,479. Commissioner Pct 4 (James Patterson) cut his budget the most with a decrease of 1.65%. His budget went down from $354,174 to $348,338. County Clerk Diane Wilson decreased her budget by .04% as did District Annie Elliott with a decrease of 1.05%.
The office that consumes the largest part of the budget is the Sheriff–the detention and enforcement operations, that is. His budget total budget for 2012 is $457,406,054 including jail, courthouse security, and law enforcement. His detention operations are up about 4% and his enforcement operations are up by 3.81% over last year.
The most glaring line item that showed the largest substantial increase was for Public Defender Mental Health, up 132.63%. However, when reviewing the actual dollars involved, it appeared quite frugal. In 2011 Public Defender Mental Health was $127,161. In 2012 it increased to $295,816. The payment to court appointed defense lawyers was also up, but only by single digit numbers. That however, is an indicator that more cases are being heard and more indigent defendants are working their way through the court system.
In 2011 Fort Bend County had a total of 2,013 job positions in the budget. For 2012 an increase of 48 new positions were approved–1 position for Risk Management, 1 in vehicle maintenance, 1 in building maintenance, 2 new prosecutors and 1 investigator in the district attorney’s office, 1 new investigator and 5 cadets at the sheriff’s office, 3 positions for the new juvenile truancy court, a kennel officer at Animal control, 18 varied positions for the library system, 1 new facilities coordinator for the parks department, 1 new therapist for juvenile probation, 12 varied detention officers for juvenile detention, and 2 new truancy officers rounds out the new positions for 2012.
When it comes to rolling stock, in 2011 Fort Bend County owned and operated 731 vehicles. For the 2012 budget year that number increased by 5. The bulk of those vehicle are assigned to the sheriff with no increase over the current 288, However, 31 of those will be replaced in 2012.
The other department with a high number of vehicles is road and bridge with 96, receiving 6 replacements for 2012.
Very early in the 2012 budget year, commissioners have made, or are in the process of making, two new acquisitions. The first was the purchase of 2.1 acres of land adjoining the George Memorial Library grounds in Richmond. That land was purchased from the Fort Bend Country Club for $525,000 and the agreement for the county to dig three lakes on club property.
When asked, Commissioner Richard Morrison said the acquisition is the first steps in expanding book space and resource availability for the patrons of the library. He said an administrative building and offices will be built on part of the new land with room for future expansion of the library itself.
The second acquisition underway is the intended purchase of raw land adjoining the Fort Bend County Central Appraisal Office (CAD) on FM 2219 in Rosenberg. That 5 acre-property is slated to be purchased for a little over one million dollars and will be used for parking and office expansion in the future. The intent is for the county to own the property and buildings and lease it back to the CAD. FYI: the CAD has never been able to increase its space because it would have to get an agreement from all of the approximately 100 taxing entities in the county.
All in all, the 2012 budget is remarkably close to the 2011. Salaries have stayed the same and many of the elected officials have cut what characterize some of the fluff, but what others call “to the bone.”