McLennan County Commissioner Lester Gibson accused his fellow commissioners of illegally discussing budget items outside of posted meetings after his budget request was recently denied.
During discussions about Gibson’s request for an additional $200,000 for fiscal year 2016, commissioners said the increase was too high when others had kept their budgets relatively unchanged.
The other three commissioners’ budgets were approved. They brushed off Gibson’s comments about illegal activity.
Gibson, who represents Precinct 2, said it was obvious his fellow commissioners had come to that decision in an “unprecedented move” of discussing the matter outside of open session.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Kelly Snell said he was working hard to keep the overall budget down, and meanwhile Gibson was asking for a substantial increase.
“I don’t think there was any need for anyone to meet outside the meetings because no one else asked for a $200,000 increase,” Snell said. “I don’t think that takes a meeting of any kind.”
Precinct 4 Commissioner Ben Perry said Gibson was obviously frustrated and his comments were likely a result of that feeling.
“I’m not trying to be mean and I’m not trying to pick on anyone, but the facts are the facts,” Perry said.
Gibson said he has been with the county 24 years and it is the first time he has ever seen so little deliberation about an item that had such quick uniformity across the court.
Gibson said it was obvious the other commissioners had their minds made up before coming to the meeting.
Gibson had requested his budget increase from $2.65 million in fiscal year 2015 to $2.91 million in fiscal year 2016 by adding $200,000 to his road construction materials’ line item.
Perry said Gibson wasn’t spending much toward repair and maintenance of roads, something he said was “very telling.”
“We’re all given money and it’s up to us to choose where to spend it,” Perry said.
Perry said Gibson has the smallest precinct in the county and spends less money than anyone on road and bridge material.
Gibson has 211.4 miles in his precinct and spends $2,838 on road construction materials per mile out of his $2.9 million budget. He has 20 employees, with $1.23 million dedicated to salaries. His budget spends $5,862 on personnel costs per mile in his precinct.
Snell has 238 miles in his precinct and spends $3,409 on road construction materials per mile out of his budget of $2.8 million. He has 18 employees, and $1.15 million is dedicated to salaries. Snell’s budget spends $4,843 on personnel costs per mile in his precinct.
Commissioner Will Jones has almost 231 miles in his precinct and spends $3,083 on road construction materials per mile out of his $2.3 million budget. He has 14 employees, and more than $913,000 of his budget is dedicated to salaries. Jones’ budget spends $3,955 on personnel costs per mile in his precinct.
Perry has nearly 396 miles in his precinct and spends $3,183 on road construction materials per mile out of his $3.2 million budget. He has 19 employees, and almost $1.2 million is dedicated to salaries. Perry’s budget spends $3,031 on personnel costs per mile in his precinct.
Jones said he and Snell kept their budgets the same, while Gibson asked for more out of the general fund.
“We’re doing it with less people, more miles of road and with less money,” Jones said.
Jones said he and Snell had about the same amount of roads and funding, while he has less staff. Jones says he’s probably the most efficient with his funds, not counting Perry’s precinct, which he said had so much road mileage it couldn’t be compared.
Gibson said he was trying to get ready for new construction, which is why there is a big uptick, to help address fast-deteriorating roads. He said it was his budget to determine where funding was spent.
Perry said he has tried to keep the fiscal year 2016 budget as close to the current budget as possible to prevent an additional burden on the taxpayers.
The move against Gibson’s increase brought tension on the court, with Snell and Gibson accusing one another of not being consistent and fair.
“I can’t support your budget,” Snell said.
“Well, I can’t support yours either,” Gibson said.
“Mine’s already passed,” Snell said.
Commissioners have until Aug. 31 to adopt the final budget. The court plans to post the proposed budget on the county’s website Thursday.