Salary issues still plague Bonn, Commissioners
By LPR Staff
Elected official pay continues to be a thorn in the collective side of the Caldwell County Commissioners’ Court this week, as talks continue and the County nears approval of the budget for the coming fiscal year.
After more than an hour behind closed doors in executive session on Monday afternoon, the Commissioners
’ Court approved an order setting the maximum pay rate for Caldwell County elected officials. Commissioner Joe Roland voted against the order.
During the discussion, concern was expressed by Commissioner Neto Madrigal that the order, as approved by the Court, does not equalize the pay for the four Caldwell County Justices of the Peace – a change that Madrigal and the justices have been discussing, if not actively pursuing, for several years. However, legal counsel Ron Heggemeier advised the Commissioners during open session that the county would have to re-advertise the “maximum pay rates” in order to raise all Justice of the Peace salaries to the same level, and that time was of the essence as the Sept. 26 public hearing and record vote on the budget nears.
He did, however, spell out the process under state law which an elected official must follow to file a grievance with the Commissioners’ Court regarding the budgeted rate of pay. If such a grievance is filed, that elected official must present their case to a “grievance committee” comprised of other elected officials – with the County Judge seated on the panel as a non-voting member, and members of the public.
Although no official statement was made by any elected official with regards to a grievance committee, it is expected that such a group will be convened later this month.
In a related item the Court heard from Kelly Kolodze, a benefits coordinator with the Texas Association of Counties (TAC), which will be overseeing county employee health benefits in the coming year.
Kolodze discussed the cost of the benefits with the Commissioners, and although TAC offered a lower bid than other insurance providers, a memo released to county employees on Tuesday suggests that most employees who utilize county benefits for their spouses and children will see a marked increase in cost correlating with the new budget year.
Additionally, Commissioners Madrigal and Roland questioned Kolodze on whether employees who choose not to utilize the county’s health insurance benefit could have the cash value of that benefit added to their monthly pay. Kolodze said that practice, which is not currently a county policy, is technically legal, but she suggested it presents some murky questions.
The Court will continue discussing the budget for the next few weeks, before it comes before a public hearing and record vote at the meeting scheduled at 9 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 26.
In other business, residents of the Martindale area approached the Commissioners to request a “River Safety Ordinance” be enacted in a cooperative effort with the City of Martindale and Guadalupe County.
Complaints of motorized boats and personal watercraft being used on the San Marcos River in the area between the Martindale Dam and Scull’s Crossing have been causing concerns for the neighboring property owners in the area. Those complaints prompted area residents to form a coalition to encourage elected leaders to enact laws and ordinances to protect river safety.
Heggemeier said he had not had the opportunity to review the legality of the matter, and asked the Commissioners to hold off before making any decisions.
The next regular meeting of the Caldwell County Commissioners’ Court is scheduled on Monday, Sept. 12, 2011, at 9 a.m. in the conference room of the LW Scott Annex, 1403 Blackjack St. in Lockhart.