by Joe Brinkley, Commissioner, Precinct 2
First appeared in Weatherford Telegram
Posted Monday, Feb. 22, 2010
Occasionally in this life we meet someone who consistently believes their individual wisdom is greater than the wisdom of the whole.
Fortunately, this happens only occasionally. My fellow Commissioner John Roth of Precinct 3 used this space last week in an attempt to convince Parker County residents that he alone knows what is best for you, the taxpayer.
Considering this, I would like to summarize for you some, but not all, of the positive actions of Parker County Government under the leadership of County Judge Mark Riley.
First, in 2003, Commissioner’s Court voted unanimously to freeze property taxes on persons 65 years of age or older as authorized by the State Legislature with an effective date of 2004. This was prior to Commissioner Roth being on the Court. This has resulted in a savings to those taxpayers of about $2 million and the County has continued to have balanced budgets and a low tax rate.
Under Judge Riley’s leadership, your tax rate was lowered from what it was when he took office. Under Judge Riley’s management of the Parker County budget, our bond rating has improved to a AA-, which saved tax payers $600,000 in interest on the Parker County Transportation Bond that was approved overwhelmingly by you, the voters. You don’t get a AA- bond rating without having a well managed and conservative fiscal policy, which we have under Judge Riley.
As a new commissioner, Roth opposed proceeding with the construction of the Parker County Jail expansion at a time when you, the taxpayer, were paying for Parker County inmates to be housed in other county jails due to lack of jail space in our own jail.
The design was not Commissioner Roth’s, but it met architectural and engineering standards and those of the State Jail Commission, and was cost effective. Due to the design of the current jail facility and the contract with a private jail management company, Parker County has enjoyed a cost savings of more than $300,000. Now we not only have enough bed space to house all of our prisoners, but also we are now being paid to house federal prisoners, which is estimated to generate up to $250,000 in annual revenue.
Commissioner’s Court voted 4-1 to close the Parker County Health Clinic, which was somewhat of a trial facility and did not prove to be cost effective. The results in savings was something more than $200,000. Commissioner Roth voted against this.
The current Parker County budget is a balanced budget due in great part to Judge Riley reducing proposed expenditures of the various departments by some $800,000 in order to maintain a low tax rate and still provide the level of services required by taxpayers. Commissioner Roth opposed this budget.
Commissioner Roth also opposed increasing the employees share of their health insurance premiums, which would have left you, the taxpayer, to pick up this cost.
During budget hearings there was also discussion led by County Judge Mark Riley to eliminate cell phone allowances for elected officials. Commissioner Roth opposed this, saying the $25,000 in savings that would come from eliminating the cell phone allowances was not significant. While Judge Riley, Commissioner Jim Webster and I consider our salaries adequate and voluntarily gave up our cell phone allowances, Commissioner Roth continues to let you, the taxpayer, fund his cell phone.
Although the current County Budget cut spending and maintained a low tax rate, Commissioner Roth voted against the tax rate, apparently because he thought the County needed a higher tax rate and more money. This is conservative? I don’t think so.
In a Sept. 9 Weatherford Telegram article regarding setting the tax rate, Commissioner Roth was quoted as saying, “Say the economy got really bad, like it’s going now. Say people don’t pay their property taxes. Then we have a shortfall. Where do we make up the difference? From our savings account – previous tax dollars collected and not expended.”
As your Precinct 2 Commissioner, I personally have more faith in our taxpayers than that. Some elected officials seem to take comfort in having more of your money. I take comfort in you having more of your money.
Precinct 3 and Precinct 2 have the two largest annual budgets of the four Precincts based on road miles and tax base. However, Precinct 3 has something over 40 percent of financed debt of the four precincts combined. Once again, is this conservative management of your tax dollars?
Regarding the Senior Center, the Court moved on the transaction to facilitate the future services for seniors as well as space that will be needed by the County. The North Central Texas Council of Governments projects the population of Parker County will increase by 284 percent, to a population of 328,400, by the year 2030. Folks, that is long range planning, which is what governments should do.
I do agree with Commissioner Roth on one position. We do need a County Judge who is a leader, committed to fiscal responsibility and focused on the future of Parker County. We already have that in County Judge Mark Riley. He has done an excellent job as Judge. He has managed the county’s growth while lowering your taxes. Judge Riley is a smart fiscal conservative and an effective and qualified leader who is passionate about his job as County Judge.
My vote is to keep Mark Riley as Parker County Judge in the interest of the future of this County.
Commissioner Brinkley’s comments are credible in our view for two reasons:
1. He speaks from years of first hand experience from working side by side with Judge Riley on Commissioners Court.
2. He cannot benefit by supporting Judge Riley because Brinkley is not running for re-election.