Cindy Ruthart

The Lamar County Commissioners’ Court continued with budget workshops Tuesday, hearing requests from several department heads for funding in the upcoming 2019-20 fiscal year. Departments heard included the Precinct 3 Constable’s Office, network administration, the Justice of the Peace Precinct 5-1 and others.

Justice of the Peace Precinct 5-1

Judge Cindy Ruthart presented the proposed budget for the Justice of the Peace Precinct 5-1, which was mostly unchanged from the current year’s budget.

Ruthart requested a budget of $223,509, slightly up from the budget of $219,212 the office received in FY 2018-19. In salaries, Ruthart asked for $152,972, up from the $148,982 the office earned in the current fiscal year.

Ruthart said she was hoping for an increase in travel allowance, saying it has been 12 years since the budget line for travel has been increased, adding personnel drive quite a bit to do inquests at all hours.

“We’re on call and have to go out into the county, or any city or the hospital and do inquests in the middle of the night or any time,” she said.

She also said she and another justice take turns driving out to the jail twice a day.

“So we do use our automobiles quite a bit and would appreciate a small increase,” she said.

Ruthart asked that travel allowance be bumped from $1,200 to $1,500.

FICA payments, retirement and group insurance all stayed close to where they were is the current budget, with $11,872 listed for FICA, $19,600 for retirement and $30,000 for group insurance.

Network administration

Network administrator Joel Witherspoon asked the county to allow for an additional employee when he presented his proposed budget to the commissioners.

“We’ve grown to a size (where) we have so much more technology and equipment than we did five years ago,” Witherspoon told the commissioners.

He said the office, which consists of himself and one other person, would be seriously hampered if he had to miss work.

“If I decide to go on a cruise… or God forbid I get in a car wreck, you don’t have anybody to cover, and right now we could have a full-time IT person here and over at the sheriff’s office and split the difference between the other post office,” Witherspoon said.

With the hopes of adding a member to his staff, he requested an allotment of $148,306 for salaries, an increase of $44,000 from the $104,306 allocated for salaries last year.

FICA payments, group insurance and retirement all increased, from $8,236 to $11,710, from $20,140 to $30,000 and from $13,598 to $19,335, respectively.

There also was an increase in contract services, which Witherspoon said was a result of the county’s partnership with Tyler Technologies. The line rose from $291,475 in the current fiscal year to $316,955 requested for the coming year.

Precinct 3 constable

Precinct 3 Constable Steve Hill brought before the commissioners a budget that was only slightly higher than what the office received in the current year, asking for $97,050, compared to the $95,005.52 alloted in FY 2018-19.

Hill asked for a 5% raise for some of his employees, amounting to a salary request of $57,175, an increase from the $54,730 received in the current fiscal year.

Hill said the commissioners approved a 5% raise for his staff during last year’s budgeting process, but due to some complications with the budget, they weren’t able to fully enjoy those raises.

“Last year we received a 5% (raise), which was great, but then it actually fell back a step because the raise that was given to the employees was taken off of that 5%,” he said. “It was kind of a step forward and a half a step backwards.”

Hill asked for $3,325 for office supplies, saying he needed a new desktop computer, a tint meter, a breathalyzer and some new office furniture.

FICA payments were set at $4,500, retirement is listed at $7,500 and $10,000 is proposed for group insurance.

Another prominent line item is oil and gas for the precinct’s vehicles, with a request of $6,500, up $1,500 from the current year’s allocation of $5,000 for oil and gas.

Extension Service

The Lamar County Extension Office requested $152,048 for the coming fiscal year. This marks an increase of roughly $24,000 from what the department received in FY 2018-19, though most of that is comprised of a single line item that wasn’t included in the current year’s budget.

County Coordinator Laura Graves told commissioners the office is seeking $20,000 for part-time help, a person to assist the county’s 4-H program and also help handle paperwork and other managerial tasks.

“It would take some of the workload off of (Secretary Betty Hutchings),” Graves said.

Though Graves listed the requested amount at $20,000, she said the amount could be anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000, and she knows $20,000 would be the top range the county could allocate for the request.

“For a 20-hour week type of position, that’s what I’m thinking,” she said.

Graves said the program currently includes roughly 100 children, who learn a multitude of skills through the 4-H program.

Adding the additional position would also free up the office to do more outreach work into the local schools, Graves said.

“We’re trying to grow, and the only way for us to grow is if we had more help,” said Extension Agent Joshua Yates. “It’s hard to grow when you’re kind of understaffed… but we understand if y’all can’t do it, it’s fine. We’ll still try hard to do a good job.”

The requested amount for salaries is unchanged from the current fiscal year’s allotment, at $87,148. FICA payments total $8,700, retirement is set at $6,000 and group insurance is listed at $10,000. Travel and training is also listed at $10,000.

Tommy Culkin is a staff writer for The Paris News. He can be reached at 903-785-6972 or at tommy.culkin@theparisnews.com.

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