Commissioners reject CCAD budget
‘Excessive’ pay raises at root of Court’s disapproval
By LPR Staff
Once again this year, the Caldwell County Appraisal District’s initial budget proposal has sent shockwaves through the Caldwell County Commissioners Court and raised a red flag of disapproval among the county’s leadership.
As the County begins prepa
ring its budget for the coming fiscal and tax years, one factor they must consider is the budget of the Caldwell County Appraisal District, which is funded through collection from each of the taxing entities the district serves. Over the last few years, the appraisal district budget has been a point of contention, as the district’s board of directors has offered pay increases to district employees substantially higher than those the taxing entities, and Caldwell County in particular, can afford to give to their own employees.
This year’s initial budget figures reflected a continuation of the pattern, with every employee position within the district receiving a pay increase in some increases up to nearly 25 percent.
“I have a big problem with this,” County Judge Ronnie Duesterheft said. “I don’t think it’s right [to put significant pay raises] on the backs of the taxpayers when we can’t give those same raises to our people.”
Other points of contention in the budget include a considerable increase, from $21,000 to $38,272, in the district’s proposed retirement contributions, a decrease in postage costs, and the fact that $55,000 budgeted last year for the purchase of new computer equipment was melded elsewhere into the budget, rather than being taken as an outright reduction.
At first blush, the appraisal district budget shows to be holding level or realizing a minor decrease, from $803,149 to $803,084.
However, the Commissioners seemed to be of the unified opinion that reductions to the budget can, and should, be made in deference to the current economic climate and the fact that the taxing entities are attempting to continue tightening their belts and the appraisal district should be expected to do the same.
When the budget is complete, Caldwell County will be responsible for the contribution of 34.25 percent of the budget, or $70,647 according to the current figures.
Only the Lockhart Independent School District is responsible for a larger portion of the appraisal district’s budget.
In a related item, the Commissioners authorized an Executive Order from Duesterheft clarifying pay schedules for law enforcement personnel working for Caldwell County.
The order was triggered by a recently-filed lawsuit wherein a former county employee claimed to have been underpaid for hours worked. The Order effectively clarifies that Caldwell County employees, includingsheriff’s deputies, certified jailers and others in either executive or administrative capacity who have the authority to make an arrest are paid on a 171-hour, 28-day work schedule, while all other employees are paid on a 40-hour, seven day cycle.
The clarification was required because of confusion about how certain employees should be paid for overtime work.
In brief news:
The Court approved a contract with City-County Benefits Services for consulting fees. CCBS has historically assisted the county in negotiation of personnel issues including the cost of insurance. Discussion of the $20,000 fee led Duesterheft to suggest the remaining commissioners consider, in the near future, adding a Human Resources department, rather than keeping with the current organization which leaves those responsibilities with the Caldwell County Treasurer’s Office.
Commissioner Neto Madrigal volunteered to meet with the City of Lockhart’s EMS and Animal Services Director Melanie Tucker as budget talks go forward. Tucker suggested a cooperative effort with the Court in developing her budgets, because Lockhart and Caldwell County share in funding the expenses of those two departments.
They approved a variance to divide a nine-acre tract of property off County Road 108 into two equal parcels.
They opted not to put the county under an outdoor burning ban.
The County paid bills in the amount of $191,775.67, which includes $8,842.50 in indigent legal defense costs and $9,406.77 in indigent health care fees.
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. The meetings are open to the public and citizens are encouraged to attend and participate in their local government.