County budget officials are looking for more than $130 million in spending cuts for the fiscal year that begins on March 1.
Budget officials and county government department chiefs have three months to come up with a plan for how much and where to cut. Commissioners Court then will adopt and, perhaps, modify that plan to fund jails, courts, disease control, libraries, mental health services, parks, road maintenance and other county government services.
Department heads this week received a memo asking them to plan for a 10 percent cut in their budgets and to report how such a cut would affect public services.
“Whether it would be across the board, I don’t know,” said Dick Raycraft, who as the county’s director of management services is the chief budget officer. Such an across-the-board cut would amount to $136 million.
Until the economy improves, the memo says, the budget “will require reduction or elimination of certain services or programs and these changes could last several years or become permanent.”
It’s not just the city or the state. Maybe this will finally force the county to get serious about reducing the inmate population, which for sure would save a lot of money without reducing services for all of us. The Republican Party and Ed Emmett ran campaign ads on behalf of all of the now-re-elected judges who got us into this problem in the first place promising that they’d get us out of it. Well, it’s put up or shut up time. The best answer to the squabble about the cost of outsourcing inmates is to put yourself in the position to not need to do it at all.
And I’m still waiting for any of the usual suspects that love to criticize the city for its financial issues to say something about the county and the mess it’s gotten itself into. Don’t knock yourselves over rushing to respond.
UPDATE: Grits suggests there has been a little bit of progress in the past couple of years in terms of putting fewer people in the Harris County jails. More, much more, is needed, but so far so good.