Texas comptroller says Harris County is defunding police, county says it isn’t

(Center Square)

After Gov. Abbott asked the state comptroller to evaluate Harris County’s budget to see if it violated a state law prohibiting local entities from defunding police departments, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hager announced Friday that Texas’ largest county is underfunding its police and that he is imposing sanctions. . As a result of this.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said she had to “go back to accounting class,” that she was fighting her ruling in court, and that the county had actually increased the funding.

On December 14, 2022, Governor Abbott’s Department of Criminal Justice requested Hager’s office to investigate a complaint by Constable Ted Heap of the Harris County Constable’s Office Precinct 5, alleging that the county’s fiscal year 2023 adopted budget allocated resources available to precinct 6,24, Reduced by $47. compared to the previous year.

State law requires the comptroller’s office, upon request by the governor, to determine whether a county has implemented a proposed reduction or reallocation of law enforcement funding without the necessary voter approval.

“After careful review, I find that the complaint evidences a reduction in funding for a law enforcement agency when comparing the current fiscal year’s adopted budget to the prior fiscal year’s adopted budget,” Hager said.

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Heap alleged that the Harris County budget reduced overall funding for Precinct 5 by $2,367,444.86 when annualized on a month-to-month basis. The comptroller’s office said Harris County would “again use a complicated method with two different multipliers and omit two pay periods to argue otherwise, yet the math is clear and straightforward. The funding shortfall is $2,367,444.86.”

As a result, he ruled that “Harris County may not adopt an ad valorem tax rate that exceeds the county’s no-new-revenue tax rate unless the earliest of the following occurs: My office issues a written determination; the county has resolved the funding reduction.” ; or funding reductions have been approved in elections.”

Last fall, two Republican county commissioners succeeded in forcing Harris County to adopt a “no-new-revenue” property tax rate for the 2023 fiscal year, preventing the court from reaching a quorum. Their actions have saved residents nearly a quarter of a billion dollars. However, Democrats re-elected one of the Republican commissioners out of office, who lost re-election last November. With a 4-1 Democratic majority, the court will now be able to fill a quorum and pass agenda items without opposition.

However, “the root cause of that controversy” over police funding “remains unresolved,” Hager said, adding that “Judge Lina Hidalgo and the Harris County Commissioners Court are defending the police.”

Hidalgo’s office posted a statement on social media, saying, “Comptroller Hager and his colleagues appear to be struggling with basic accounting. As of Harris County’s 26 pay periods, funding for the Precinct 5 Constable’s Office increased by nearly two million dollars ($46.6M to $48.5M) between the two budgets in question.”

He also said he looks forward to fighting Hager’s ruling in court and “in the meantime, Comptroller Hager needs to go back to accounting class.”

Hager suggested that the state legislature consider “taking more steps to ensure Texas law enforcement agencies and personnel have the resources they need to keep Texans safe.”

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Gov. Greg Abbott’s press office did not respond to requests for comment about Hager’s findings. However, when he first requested the investigation, Governor Abbott said, “The dangerous actions taken by Judge Lina Hidalgo and Harris County represent a blatant disregard for the safety and security of the Texans they are sworn to protect. The loss of millions of dollars in funding across the county will jeopardize public safety at a time when Texas law enforcement is working harder than ever to keep criminals and dangerous drugs out of our communities.

“Harris County continues to display a complete disregard for public safety, the same county whose revolving door bail program returns dangerous criminals to the streets to commit more violent crimes like murder. While Harris County politicizes the public safety of its citizens, the State of Texas will ensure that our brave law enforcement partners have the resources they need for this important responsibility.”

Syndicated with permission from Center Square.