County grapples with pay plans
By LPR Staff
A proposed pay increase that initially pleased each of the Caldwell County Commissioners and many County employees continues to cause headaches for the Commissioners” Court this week.
In preparing the budget for the 2007-2008 fiscal year, the Commissioners, County Judge H.T. Wright and County Auditor Sonny Rougeou discov
ered Caldwell County was in the position to offer a 5-percent pay increase to all county employees. In addition, salaries for certain employees within the District Attorney”s Office could be adjusted to “level the playing field,” in some areas, making salaries more fair in accordance with the job responsibilities required of their positions.
Not long after the announcement, Caldwell County Sheriff Daniel Law offered a proposal dispersing the 5-percent increase allocated to his office in a tiered manner, instead of “across-the-board,” as most other departments planned.
The proposal has brought on several weeks of controversy, argument and infighting among Commissioners and other county elected officials, some of whom support Law”s claim that a tiered distribution is necessary for the good of his department, and others who believe the proposal will cause tensions between county employees.
As debate over the proposal grew, departments other than the Sheriff”s department jumped, or were dragged, into the melee. Some Commissioners suggested that any department head could present a proposal similar to Law”s. Finally, during the last meeting of the Commssioners” Court, it was decided that the 5-percent increase would be mandated across-the-board. As a result of the decision, the salary adjustments suggested for the District Attorney”s Office were removed from the proposed budget.
During a heated meeting of the Court on Monday, Commissioners continued to argue the salary increase, finally reversing the decisions they previously made.
“It was never my intent to have the salary adjustments we”d already worked into the budget removed,” said Commissioner Tom Bonn, who made the motion for the “across-the-board” mandate during the last meeting. “I would like to see that corrected and those adjustments put back in.”
However, Bonn remained adamant about not allowing Law to move forward with the distribution plan he suggested, citing a lack of County policy allowing for such a move, and a desire to see the plan before voting on it.
“I just don”t see the difference, though,” said Commissioner Joe Roland. “I want our employees to have the raises, and I don”t want to see anyone lose money. But we had a chance to solve a problem [with employees leaving the sheriff”s department for higher pay] last week, and we didn”t.”
Roland said he agreed with the Sheriff”s plan, and did not see how it affected other departments, the heads of which offered resistance to the proposal.
After the Court voted to reinstate the salary adjustments at the District Attorney”s Office, Roland moved to allow Law to institute the pay program he suggested, with Neto Madrigal offering his support with a second.
Bonn then expressed concern about the Court rescinding a decision they made in the past. Wright noted the Court has the power to change their minds if they see fit.
Commissioner Charles Bullock, who vocally supported the Sheriff”s proposal, expressed concern that a policy is not in place either allowing such a distribution of pay increases, or forbidding it.
In the end, Bullock and Bonn stood against allowing the Sheriff to institute a tiered program of pay increases this budget year, while Wright, Madrigal and Roland agreed to let him move forward.
In other business, the Court held a brief public hearing regarding a potential increase in tax rates for the coming year. Under the proposed budget, taxes will increase approximately 6.2 percent for the coming year. The Court will hold a second public hearing next week, and vote on the tax rate later this month.
In brief news:
The Commissioners opened bids for flexible base, aggregate, asphalt materials, fuel oil and lubricant for the coming fiscal year. Rougeou will work with Unit Road Administrator Dwight Jeffrey to bring a proposal to the Court.
They approved a variance allowing a property owner to sell 7.16 acres in southern Caldwell County.
The Court received an ordinance from the City of Lockhart asking for a joint election on Nov. 6.
They paid bills in the amount of $171,944.31, including $14,167 in indigent legal defense fees.
The Caldwell County Commissioners meet on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in Room 100 of the Caldwell County Courthouse.