Sending additional state police and National Guard troops to the border will cost Texas between $17 million and $18 million dollars a month. That's according to a presentation Tuesday by top officials with the Legislative Budget Board (LBB), who told state lawmakers they will have to find a way to keep paying for it.
About one-third of that cost is for salaries, travel and other expenses of Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers sent to the border as part of "Operation Strong Safety II." Close to two-thirds of the $18 million will cover salary, meals, lodging and other costs of deploying up to 1,000 National Guard troops.
"Nobody knows [the costs] exactly," LBB director Ursula Parks told the Senate Committee on Finance. "These are projections and, in part, based on the best information and experience of the affected agencies, and I think what they know and don't know changes from week to week."
In addition to operational costs of up to $18 million a month, lawmakers may have to pay for additional wear and tear on DPS vehicles used in border operations.
The LBB said lawmakers should also consider paying back $38 million to an emergency radio infrastructure fund used to help finance the National Guard presence. Governor Rick Perry's office said last week he had the authority to use the money, because the influx of people entering the United States illegally constituted an emergency.
But that $38 million won't last more than a few weeks.
"There would definitely need to be other action that takes place," Parks told lawmakers, referring to legislative action to appropriate funds. "I don't think there's any assessment that says the amount of money that has currently been identified is sufficient."
The border operation supported by the state's Republican leadership intends to bolster security while federal agents struggle to process a major influx of unaccompanied children, many from the impoverished Central American countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
Since January, 4,280 unaccompanied migrant children have been placed with families or in foster care in Texas. That number could almost double by the end of the year.
The Texas Education Agency estimates the cost of educating those children in the state's public school system at $75 million. The relatively high annual cost of about $9,000 per migrant child is partly because of the added expense of teaching students whose first language is not English.