GOLIAD – Members of the Goliad County Commissioners Court continued to spar over budgetary issues and procedure during a special called meeting on Sept. 2 at the Goliad County Courthouse.
The meeting was called by Pct. 1 Commissioner Kenneth Edwards, Pct. 2 Commissioner Alonzo Morales and Pct. 4 Commissioner David Bruns, who also asked via social media that members of the public attend.
Edwards voiced concern that $200,000 had been removed from his road and bridge budget without his knowledge, and an item on the agenda was whether to transfer $200,000 from the county’s uncommitted funds to his road materials fund.
Edwards said that at one point during the budget process, he had $400,000 in his road and bridge special fund and that the money had been removed.
“That $400,000 is gone,” he said. “They started pulling money from my road and bridge fund. I save money for the bigger projects and I try not to spend it all. I would like for the (county) auditor to explain to me (what happened to the money in his fund).”
County Auditor Rusty Friedrichs pointed to a copy of the budget worksheet and showed different columns where money was listed. He said one portion of the budget, which was listed $200,000 in Edwards’ road and bridge fund, is contingent on the county receiving grant money from the Texas General Land Office and that the county has not yet received the money.
“Mr. Edwards was advised more than once that we had not received the grant money,” Friedrichs said.
Edwards disputed that he had been notified multiple times regarding the matter, but a representative of the county treasurer’s office said that she had also informed Edwards that the grant money was not in place.
“(Edwards) says he wasn’t informed — he was,” Friedrichs said.
Edwards said he only remembers being notified once — on Aug. 25 — that the grant money was not yet part of his budget, and that he did not remember being told that by the county treasurer’s office.
“Why wasn’t it taken off (the budget) on Aug. 7?” Edwards asked.
“Because there is still a possibility that money might come in — it might be remote, but there is a possibility,” Friedrichs said.
At issue is a $55,000 bill for road work that Edwards said he no longer can pay out of his budget.
Commissioner Bruns addressed Edwards’ concerns.
“I can understand the confusion he had,” Bruns said. ... “I doubt he needs the whole $200,000, but I move that we take $100,000 from the county’s uncommitted fund and put that in (Edwards’) road materials fund.”
Edwards seconded the motion and Morales also voted in favor. Commissioner White and County Judge Mike Bennett both voted against the proposal, so the motion carried by a 3-2 vote.
Before the vote, Edwards said he wasn’t sure what Bennett was trying to pull with regard to budget item transfers.
“I’m not trying to pull anything,” Bennett said. “Whenever people want to give you buckets of money (for grants), there’s always strings attached.”
He said the General Land Office has strict guidelines about the use of these grants, adding “it’s a GLO grant and their strings attached.”
Also approved by a 3-2 margin — with the same people voting either in favor or against it— was a proposal that as part of commissioners court policy and for taxpayer transparency, each line item transfer in the budget must have a separate agenda item. This also requires the elected official or department head affected by the transfer to be present at the Commissioners Court to answer questions about why the transfer is needed.