By Kathi Bliss
What should have been a simple question became a complex discussion on Monday morning as Caldwell County Commissioners came face-to-face, once again, with the question of employee pay rates in Caldwell County.
On the agenda was approval of a maximum salary for Caldwell County elected officials, including the Caldwell County Commissioners’ Court. The measure, which is required by law, orders the County to advertise, and then approve, the maximum salary to be offered to elected officials during any given budget year. However, they are not required to approve the maximum amount advertised – they simply can’t approve anything more.
A request to approve the figures, which amount to a potential $3,100 raise for county elected officials, got mired down in questions on Monday morning, with Commissioner Fred Buchholtz in particular using the notion to discuss pay rates for non-elected county employees.
Buchholtz said he was worried about the measure because he has not yet seen the salary survey which is being prepared by the Human Resources Department; he said he did not want to approve the $3,100 figure, which includes pay increases given to non-elected employees last year, as well as a proposed $2,000 increase this year, because he does not want to promise employees $2,000.
Buchholtz launched into a complicated version of how he would like to see employee pay rates stabilized and brought into line with other counties of the same size and demographic. However, as County Administrator Ron Heggemeier noted, Buchholtz was expressing concern about a separate issue, and one that cannot be wholly solved during this budget cycle.
Commissioner Neto Madrigal, who also expressed concern about employee pay, said that although he was voting in favor of setting the salary caps as advertised, he would not accept a pay increase if one was offered in the proposed budget.
The proposed budget, which County Judge Tom Bonn expects to present on July 2, will include a proposed $2,000 increase for all non-elected employees, likely as well as the $3,100 increase for “full time elected officials,” such as the County Clerk and County Treasurer. Bonn did not specify whether his budget proposal would include a pay increase for Commissioners and the County Judge, although the approved advertisement makes that possible.
In other business, the Commissioners decided not to move forward with the carving of a monument fashioned from the stump of a recently-cut pecan tree on the Courthouse Lawn.
Despite arguments that the monument was intended as an honorarium for Caldwell County’s fallen veterans, the condition of the tree stump and the proposal that the monument be in the shape of the cross gave pause to the Commissioners, who in the end voted not to move forward.
In brief news:
They read a proclamation in honor of Caldwell County native Willie Henry Ellison, declaring July 28, 2012, as Willie Henry Ellison Day.
They recognized several members of Caldwell County 4-H who earned scholarships and performed well at recent state-level competitions.
The Commissioners approved financial reports from several Caldwell County Volunteer Fire Departments, in preparation for the forthcoming 2012-2013 fiscal year budget.
The Caldwell County Commissioners Court routinely meets on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in the Conference and Training Room at the LW Scott Annex. The meetings are open to the public and interested stakeholders are encouraged to attend.