02.28.08

Who Should Be The County Budget Officer?

Posted in Commentary, Commissioners Court, The Budget, Williamson County at 3:57 pm by wcnews

Attorney General (AG) Greg Abbott’s opinion of November 2007, (can be read here [.PDF]) regarding who can and cannot be the county budget is very clear. There are three subchapters that a county can operate under – chapters A, B, and C. Because of Williamson County’s population (approx. 350,000) it can no longer operate under subchapter A, limited to counties of 225,000 or less. Subchapter A is also the only one that allows a county judge to serve as a county’s budget officer.

From the ruling it can bee seen that Williamson at the time operated under Subchapter B which applies to a county which is in excess of 225,000 but chooses not to operate under subchapter C. And in such a county the budget officer is the county auditor. If a county operates under subchapter C the county commissioners can appoint a budget officer but it cannot be one of it’s members, and the county judge is a member. From the AG’s ruling:

..we conclude that a county that chooses to operate under subchapter C of chapter 11, Local Government Code, may not appoint its county judge to serve as its county budget officer.

After reading that it’s baffling why there’s still confusion. From today’s AAS article on the subject, Commissioners start planning new budget:

As Williamson County commissioners begin to discuss the county’s upcoming budget, they’ll first need to decide who oversees it.

For now, it’s County Judge Dan A. Gattis, but there’s plenty of confusion (even among the county’s attorneys) about whether he should keep the job.

To clear up the issue, County Attorney Jana Duty requested an opinion from the state attorney general’s office in June.

The attorney general’s office agreed with Duty that the county judge shouldn’t serve as the budget officer because the county’s population exceeds 225,000 people. The opinion says either the county auditor should act as the budget officer or a new position should be created.

The county has about 350,000 residents, and the county judge historically has acted as the budget officer.

The opinion, however, has only muddied things.

“It raises a lot more questions than answers to me,” Commissioner Lisa Birkman said.

Birkman has said she and other commissioners considered giving that authority to the auditor over the summer, when commissioners appointed Gattis, but in her view it created an “uncomfortable position.”

“In my experience, the auditors aren’t involved in setting the budget — they audit what we do,” she said last month.

My reading of the opinion it says the county judge cannot be appointed, not shouldn’t be appointed, as the budget officer. Again where’s the confusion? Gattis to close:

Duty said the opinion is not binding.

[..]

Regarding the budget officer opinion, Gattis said he has asked Duty’s office to better explain the opinion to commissioners. From there, he said the court could possibly appoint the county’s current budget analyst, Ashlie Koenig, as budget officer.

“We’re certainly not trying to ignore the opinion,” he said.

It seems to me that this should be a pretty easy one for ever Duty to explain to the commissioners. It’s either the county auditor, if operating under subchapter B, or they have to appoint a budget officer if they’re operating under subchapter C. And if operating under subchapter C, it can’t be a member of the commissioners court, and that includes the county judge.

11 Comments »

  1. tweety said,

    February 29, 2008 at 8:23 am

    There should always be another department and another person to be the budget officer that has no ties with the court. This way there will be a check and balance. It’s too easy for the court to fix numbers. Especially with this not-accountable court. If they are not ACCOUNTable how can they be ACCOUNTants?

  2. remerson said,

    March 3, 2008 at 1:31 am

    I’ve read the decision; it’s very clear. Pretend-Judge Gattis cannot be budget-officer, even a pretend one. And if Pretend-Legal
    Expert Duty doesn’t get that, then she definitely needs to be replaced.

  3. Eye on Williamson » Williamson County Budget To Go Higher said,

    May 29, 2008 at 11:07 am

    [...] county budget officer in the article. Which brings us back to a question from earlier in the year, Who Should Be The County Budget Officer? Back then we found out that because of the commissioners choice to operate under Subchapter C [...]

  4. Eye on Williamson » Budget Slated For Approval Tomorrow, Gattis Still Budget Officer said,

    August 18, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    [...] (To get up to speed on this issue read EOW’s previous reporting on the budget officer issue here and [...]

  5. Eye on Williamson » Pay Raises And The Budget Officer Issue Still Lingers said,

    October 1, 2008 at 9:35 am

    [...] could possibly appoint the county’s current budget analyst, Ashlie Koenig, as budget officer.AG Greg Abbott’s opinion stated, unequivocally, that the County Judge – currently Dan Gattis, Sr. – could no longer act as the County Budget [...]

  6. Eye on Williamson » AAS & WCS endorse incumbents for the sake of incumbency said,

    October 22, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    [...] made mistakes, and also say she’s learned from them without providing any evidence she has. Duty has done nothing to enforce the AG’s opinion that County Judge Dan Gattis, Sr. can not longer be the County Budget Officer.  She has also done [...]

  7. Eye on Williamson » County will cut non-profit funds now, when needed most said,

    March 9, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    [...] all, the Assistant Budget Officer to County Judge Dan Gattis, Sr., still acting as Budget Officer, despite the Texas Attorney General’s ruling that he can no longer hold that position. The committee was likely created as an attempt to give [...]

  8. Eye on Williamson » Hutto Citizens Group meeting May 5th said,

    May 1, 2009 at 8:30 am

    [...] continuing to act as the budget officer, in violation of the Texas Attorney General’s ruling here an [...]

  9. Eye on Williamson » Gattis, Sr. will run again, expects Democratic challenge said,

    May 12, 2009 at 11:35 am

    [...] didn’t even mention T. Don Hutto, thumbing his nose at the Texas Attorney General, or the great new landfill contract. I’m sure there are more, but that’s at least three [...]

  10. Eye on Williamson » Complaint filed against Williamson County Judge Gattis said,

    June 9, 2009 at 8:45 am

    [...] complaint has been regarding an issue that EOW has posted on serveral times, (Who should be the county budget officer, and Pay Raises And The Budget Officer Issue Still Lingers), that County Judge Dan Gattis, Sr, [...]

  11. Eye on Williamson » County appoints Ashlie Koenig as Budget Officer said,

    June 16, 2009 at 10:14 am

    [...] the WCCC appointed Koenig should not surprise anyone. It was mentioned from the first time this issue came up. In the grand scheme of things this appointment, essentially hiring from within, probably changes [...]

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.