San Antonio – Following its successful Opportunity Analysis of VIA Metropolitan Transit, the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) today released an analysis of Bexar County government. The Analysis identifies opportunities to save over $421 million over the next decade, an amount equal to $700 for every household in Bexar County. The Analysis looked at the cost and performance of a number of county offices including: Commissioners Court, Constables, County Auditor, Sheriff, Criminal District Attorney, and County Clerk.

TPPF is a non-profit research institute headquartered in San Antonio, Texas. It is dedicated to the core principles of limited government, free enterprise, and individual responsibility. The three performance reviews conducted by TPPF on state agencies, VIA, and now Bexar County, have identified $1.4 billion in cost saving opportunities. Each study has resulted in significant reforms enacted to improve performance and reduce costs. TPPF does not perform “contract” research and is supported entirely by private donations from charitable foundations, individuals, and businesses.

The Bexar County Opportunity Analysis found a number of significant issues:

  • The Constables do not adequately track funds dealing with the service of civil processes and serve fewer processes per day than other Texas counties. The authors suggest that Commissioners Court explore the option of abolishing the Constables altogether.
  • The Sheriff serves 60% fewer civil processes per day than Dallas county and is 43% below the state average for other large Texas counties.
  • The cost of jail operations managed by the Sheriff could be reduced by $8.1 million annually through public-private competition.
  • There is no immediate need for additional jail capacity. Subsequently, all plans to build the proposed Cagnon Road jail should be terminated, saving $39 million over ten years.
  • The District Attorney files judgements on only 63 percent of bail bond forfeitures, whereas, other large Texas counties file judgements on 100 percent of forfeitures.
  • The County Clerk could save county taxpayers $3.8 million over ten years by subjecting the real property indexing function to public-private competition.
  • The County Auditor, who is appointed by the district judges, has failed to assure that there is sufficient stewardship over the accounting of county funds. Financial controls are lacking with respect to bail bond forfeitures and court fines. Further, the average collection per bail bond forfeiture is considerably lower than that of other large Texas counties.
  • Numerous issues revealed in previous audits performed by Padgett Stratemann & Co., LLP remain unaddressed by the auditor.
  • An analysis of the last decade of spending trends shows that, due to fiscal restraints imposed by Commissioners Court, inflation adjusted per capita spending in Bexar County has fallen 9.3 percent since 1994. This compares to the inflation adjusted per capita spending increase of 24.1 percent during the 1988 – 1994 period.
  • Operating costs of the Commissioners Court itself have been reduced nearly 20 percent since 1994.
  • It is recommended that Commissioners Court adopt new accounting controls and budgeting mechanisms that will uniformly capture cost data for all county functions and departments. Using Activity Based Budgeting, Commissioners Court should appropriate funds equivalent to the “competitive market rate” for each county function. Imposing such competitive discipline on spending would save $359 million over the next decade.