County officials, employees to receive pay raises
By LPR Staff
Along with most of their employees, Caldwell County’s elected officials are expected to realize a slight pay raise this year.
The county’s proposed budget, presented to the Commissioners’ Court on Monday morning by County Judge HT Wright and County Auditor James “Sonny” Rougeou, includes a 4 percent pay raise f
or most county employees, with a few exceptions.
Most notably, the budget proposes to assign a 5 percent increase in payroll budget to the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office and Caldwell County Jail for Sheriff Daniel Law to distribute as he sees fit among his staff. Law should not, however, assign a pay increase over 7 percent to any individual employee.
The county’s elected officials will see a slightly larger increase, a proposed 4.5 percent raise for all elected officials except Law, who should receive a larger increase, but has opted to give up his $6,000 per year vehicle allowance and use a county vehicle, rather than his personal vehicle, to exercise the duties of his office.
“With gas prices and insurance, he has been losing money using his own truck,” Wright said of his decision. “The vehicle allowance we have been giving him has not been covering his expenses, and so he’s asked to go back to using a county vehicle instead of his personal truck.”
Pay increases in departments not immediately supervised by the Court caused some tension within the panel, particularly when Juvenile Probation Chief Jay Monkerud made his request for County funding for his department.
The Juvenile Probation Department is funded through a combination of state and local funds. For the first time in three years, Monkerud requested the County’s contribution be increased by $15,000 to $207,550.
Wright and the Commissioners balked at the figure when they realized some of Monkerud’s employees might receive pay increases up to 5 percent.
“I don’t think it’s fair or right that your employees are getting a larger raise than we can afford to give the employees of every other department,” Wright said. “And I don’t feel good about approving the budget with those raises in there.”
Monkerud explained that not all his employees received the full 5 percent. In fact, he said, some received as little as 3 percent. He also noted the department’s payroll is funded by state monies and not by the local contribution, which is earmarked mostly for housing youthful offenders.
“Money is money,” Wright told Monkerud. “It doesn’t matter that we don’t fund the pay raises directly. All the money goes into the same pot.”
While the other members of the Court mirrored Wright’s concern, the Commissioners opted not to decrease the figure requested by Monkerud and approved the budget as it was presented.
In other budget news, the Court also considered the proposed appraisal and collection budget from the Caldwell County Appraisal District.
According to information provided by Chief Appraiser Pete Islas, the district’s total budget has increased only slightly (just over $3,000) over last year’s figures. Moreover, the County’s share of that cost has increased slightly, to 35.28 percent of the total budget, just less than the Lockhart Independent School District’s 35.33 percent.
The total tax rate needed to support the county’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year is $.6910 per $100 of valuation, considerably below the rollback rate of $.6985, but well above last year’s $.6833.
Rougeou said every penny of tax levied generates around $120,000 in revenue, and it would not be possible for the county to support the current budget at a rate near the effective rate, $.6437.
A public hearing on the budget and tax rate is scheduled at 9 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 25, with a second hearing slated Monday, Sept. 8. The budget is scheduled for approval on Sept. 22.
The Caldwell County Commissioners Court meets on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in Room 100 of the Caldwell County Courthouse.