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McCulloch County, Texas

starLocal government provides public services to a community that private business and individuals cannot or will not (same net effect) provide. Examples include such things as eduction for children, road and street construction and maintenance, utilities (water, sewer treatment, trash disposal, etc), law enforcement, emergency services, cemeteries, and a host of other things that a community needs but require everyone to help finance.

Since these services are often inherently unprofitable, citizens form local government to collect taxes (make everyone pay their share) and provide them to the community as a whole. Since they collect taxes, they are required by state law to let the public know exactly how much money they collect and spend. Toward that end, the governing boards and staff of each local government prepare and make public their annual budgets.

Budgets are planning documents. They are prepared by estimating the cost of delivering whatever service they provide and how they will pay for it. Some services generate revenue (utilities) while others do not (streets and roads). If cost exceeds revenue, then taxes are assessed to make up the difference. By state law, these budgets are public record.

We have requested and received current budgets for all the local governments (7) in McCulloch County. Even though these are public documents, it takes some time and effort  to get them from each office. Most citizens are too busy making a living and raising their children to bother with it so they seldom know exactly what local government services actually cost.  As a public service, we did the leg work.

Read more: Local Services - Cost and Funding

starSusan Combs, then Texas State Comptroller, said in January 2013:

Recently I spent several months holding about 40 town-hall meetings with Texans across our state. Each time, I asked the attendees if they could tell me how much debt their local governments are carrying. Not a single person in a single town had this information.

That was probably true in McCulloch County, although she did not visit here. The reason is simple, it takes time and effort to gather this information. Most people have busy lives and knowing how much debt local government has is simply not on their essential "to-do" list.

They trust, as they should, the people they elect to be frugal with public money. But the Ronald Reagan idea, "Trust, but Verify", isn't practical for most people in this case. Our goal is to make it quick and easy for every citizen to obtain this information without searching multiple websites for bits and pieces of information.

Read more: Local Debt 2015 Update - Just So You Know

StarFifty-Three. Remember that number. It is the number of elected officials in McCulloch County.

They manage a combined budget over $50 million a year. Remember that number too. It is what the 8,000 citizens of McCulloch county pay, one way or another, for local government services. Local government is by far the largest employer in McCulloch county. It is big business.

Fifty-three civic-minded citizens in MCulloch County take the time and make the effort to serve on two city councils, three school boards, a hospital board and manage County government. Only the twelve elected County positions pay a full-time salary. Forty-one of those jobs are un-paid, voluntary community service. Take time to find out who these fifty-three are, say "thank you" and treat them respectfully.

Most, if not all, will discuss what they are doing and why they are doing it. A discussion is respectful, and it goes both ways. They won't, and shouldn't, tolerate personal abuse, chronic complaints without reasonable solutions, or hysterical rants. If you don't like them personally or agree with what they do, offer your own time by running for election against them. If you win, you will feel the same way.

Read more: Whole Lotta Local Going On...

StarThere are about 8,000 people in McCulloch County, 5,500 of whom live in Brady. Many of them have known each other from childhood. The remainder moved here for one reason or another and are unaware of who was a bully in eighth grade, who made good grades, and who dated who back in high school. That creates a divide between the "old-timers" and "newcomers".

Old-timers tend to associate with, do business with and vote for their friends and relatives because they know and like them. Newcomers tend to associate with, do business with and vote for those who seem friendly, honest and competent now, blissfully ignorant of all the old ties that bind a community.

Newcomers will never become old-timers, no matter how long they live here. Old-timers will never understand what it is like to leave "home" and live forever among strangers.

This divide is not unique to McCulloch County. It exists in every community on earth because people must go to where there is opportunity, even if it means leaving "home". It drives all migration from city to city and country to country. No one ever wants to leave "home". They do it because they must in order to survive and prosper. The migrants (newcomers) are never wholly welcome by old-timers. They must earn a place in their new community. It will not be given to them.

Read more: Local Divide

McCulloch County has a new Sheriff, John Stafford, the previous Sheriff's Chief Deputy. There was no election. It was just a simple Commissioner's Court meeting with some tricky parliamentary maneuvering.

Monday, August 25, 2014, the McCulloch County Commissioners Court accepted the resignation of Sheriff Earl Howell. Howell was re-elected Sheriff by a small margin in 2012. His resignation is timed too late for candidates to appear on the 2014 ballot. The Commissioner's court is required to appoint someone to serve the remainder of Sheriff Howell's term.

It is common practice in McCulloch County for officials to resign mid-term to influence the selection of their successor, who can then run as an incumbent in the next election.

Read more: Two Votes Is All It Takes to Be McCulloch County Sheriff

Sense and Nonsense Is dedicated to providing the information, ideas and interaction necessary to build a community of people who can be trusted and who trust each other.