Collin County Politics: The Devil is in the (Budget) Details

July 6, 2021

Commissioner’s Court: Chris Hill and Darrell Hale were absent, so the 13-minute meeting consisted of five public speakers and the lightning-fast passing of the consent agenda. The commissioners spent more time saying the pledge of allegiance and their illegal prayer than they did voting.

Two of the speakers asked for accountability for Marvin Scott III. A third announced that she and her book club friends formed the People Against Coerced Shots (PACS) to “educate” about the pressure to get vaccinated. Sadly, the crazy anti-vaxxers are still among us. Joshua Murray requested that the commissioners analyze their vaccine roll-out performance in order to discover lessons learned. The CEO of Pfizer theorized we’ll probably need booster shots soon, so it’s important for the county to figure out how to do that efficiently. Spoiler alert: these commissioners are so against citizen services that they won’t spend even one minute on that.

Scott Coleman, who’s running for a seat on the court, requested additional time in July for citizens to ask questions about the distribution of funds from the American Rescue Plan and about the general budget. He pointed out that there’s not a lot of time for citizens to ask questions and provide feedback since the commissioner’s budget schedule is so tight. This is especially important since the commissioners are choosing – unwisely and unnecessarily – to spend the ARP funds on capital improvements instead of on programs that would truly help Collin County residents.

The commissioners already have nearly $70 million in unassigned revenue. This is money they haven’t used for our benefit despite Lifepath being underfunded and the severe lack of public health resources, like a county hospital. Sheriff Skinner mentioned in his June 23rd press release that jails are not mental healthcare facilities and communities need appropriate treatment facilities. It sounds like even he agrees Collin County needs a county hospital, one that has plenty of resources for mental health and substance abuse treatment.

Plano City Council: Plano will get $36.2 million total from the American Rescue Plan. The staff proposed $1 million to the convention/tourism fund, $1.5 million to the recreation/revolving fund, $15.7 million to the general fund, $8 million for a new traffic vehicle detection system, and the remaining $7.7 million to be allocated during the usual budget cycle for general items. Staff pointed out that the only fund that wasn’t demolished during COVID was the golf courses (shocking), so they recommend caution for the upcoming year.

Mayor Muns said he’d talked to mayors across Texas and everyone is doing the same thing with their funds. They’re initially replenishing lost funds, then addressing public safety, infrastructure, and similar projects. Maybe I’m missing something but it sure seems like no one’s implementing needed services, like daycare, educational improvements, small business assistance, etc. Why not? Those programs are way more important than tourism or golfing. The council passed the recommendation 6-2 with Williams and Riccadelli voting against it. Riccadelli hoped the funds could go toward decreasing debt in the future while Williams wanted it all in a general fund. I’m not sure either of them understands the importance of actually providing city services.

The issue of allowing backyard hens was discussed. Lots of the public speakers were in favor while Animal Services was not. However, the council voted unanimously to have Animal Services present an ordinance legalizing backyard chickens. It sounds like Plano’s getting backyard chickens! Please treat them well!

Plano School Board: In March, evidence of the bullying of 8th grader, SeMarion Humphrey, went viral. In response, PISD agreed to (1) create a director position to oversee diversity, equity, and inclusion work; (2) propose professional learning for all staff on cultural responsiveness; and (3) develop a strategic plan for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Brian Lyons took on the role of director full-time beginning June 21st. Next up should’ve been developing a strategic plan but Dr. Courtney Gober, Assistant Superintendent for Student, Family, and Community Services, shrugged, saying they just hadn’t gotten around to Goal #3 yet. Perhaps calls from parents and voters insisting PISD come up with a tangible plan quickly will motivate him.

The proposed budget is a deficit one of $19 million, with $9 million more in deficit than the previous year due to declining enrollment. However, the Board is happy with the efficiency of this budget. What they’re not happy about is the Texas Education Agency (TEA) deciding not to grant “hold-harmless” money to PISD. Hold-harmless is a fund balance that makes up for declining enrollment due to Covid. The TEA will instead place the money into the ESSER, a fund to make up for and help districts recover from Covid and enhance infrastructure to accommodate ADA necessities. It seems like the TEA is trying to pretend the funds cover the same things but they don’t. Board President David Stolle asked about potentially bringing a lawsuit against TEA for withholding hold-harmless funds this way.

The Board also wasn’t happy with the healthcare situation. The annual compensation package includes a 2% pay increase (per usual) with employees working 20+ hours per week receiving a one-time-only payment of $500 from the district. The idea is to offset the cost of healthcare plans and decrease in benefits (like higher deductibles). The Board also will be exploring other options for healthcare plans as they recognize the 2% pay increase isn’t enough to cover the increase in the cost of insurance premiums and doesn’t keep up with inflation.

Comments 2

  1. We have to watch them … because who knows where those dollars are going. They’re certainly not going to the homeless, the ill, the disabled, or the unemployed.

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