The Lamar County Commissioners’ Court began the process of setting the county’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year, hearing budget requests from several department heads Monday.
Budget workshops will continue throughout the week, concluding Friday.
County Attorney Gary Young expressed frustration during his presentation to the commissioners, saying he feels his office has been overlooked in years past.
“I’m just extremely frustrated,” he said. “We expedite cases of people in jail; that saves the county thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars every year. You have less jailers because of it.”
In particular, Young said he thinks people on his staff are underpaid, saying three in particular are being paid far less than they should be.
“Those are all legal secretaries, essentially paralegals, who could go to any other city and make probably double what they make here,” he said.
Young also mentioned a position that has remained vacant after an employee retired.
“I was highly encouraged to not take that position off of my budget because once you lose it, you’ll never get it back,” Young said. “I couldn’t understand the logic in that. If this employee leaves for two years or three years, it saves the county $100,000 to $150,000. Well, that employee has been gone for at least eight years. So that’s a minimum … of $300,000 we’re saving the county.”
Young also criticized the county for how it’s spent money in the past, saying the entire courthouse did not need to be repainted in recent years.
In the Fiscal Year 2019-20 budget, Young is requesting $907,015. Of that, $595,000 would go to pay salaries. In FY 2018-19, the county allocated $477,128 for salaries.
Also on the budget request is $78,230 for retirement funds, $90,000 for group insurance and $47,385 for FICA payments.
Young requested $3,500 for computers and accessories, citing the need for three new computers, and he said his investigator needs a new bulletproof vest, which should cost $620.
In FY 2018-19, the county attorney’s office was allocated a total of $773,800.52. County Judge Brandon Bell said Young’s office consists of 11 people, plus an investigator.
“I’m just frustrated from 15 years of — I think we’ve done an exceptional job of being diligent, prudent and responsible with county resources, yet I don’t see anything coming back our way,” Young said.
County Court at Law
When Judge Bill Harris presented the proposed budget for the County Court at Law office, he said nothing changed from the current fiscal year except for the court reporter salary, for which he recommended a raise.
In total, the requested budget for the County Court at Law is $364,912, an increase from the current fiscal year’s allotment of $359,909.
Of his request, $258,572 is for salaries, compared to $249,337 allocated for this fiscal year.
Harris said his court reporter makes less than other County Court at Law court reporters, despite doing arguably more work.
“We do a tremendous amount of work in my court,” Harris said. “We do the contested guardianships and contested probates, we do a lot of family law stuff, some felony stuff… We stay very, very busy.”
Harris said his court reporter makes a salary of $52,655, while the County Court at Law court reporter in Wichita County makes $66,600, Cooke County pays $74,214, Hunt County pays $75,555 and Fannin County pays $64,084.
“I think my court reporter is not fairly compensated,” he said. “The closest court reporter to us in terms of what we do is Fannin County… (the Fannin County court reporter) makes about $12,000 more than my court reporter does, and they don’t do near the work that we do.”
Other significant budget items are FICA payments, at $19,875, retirement, at $32,815 and group insurance, at $30,000.
Precinct 1 Constable
Precinct 1 Constable Travis Rhodes presented the commissioners a requested FY 2019-20 budget of $91,380.
Rhodes said he was requesting a few minor increases in various areas, though he worked to keep the budget close to last year’s, in which the county gave his office $86,890.
Of his request, $56,525 is for salaries, an increase from the $54,080 during this fiscal year. Rhodes said he was hoping to see some of the people in his department receive a 5% raise.
Other significant expenditures are $10,000 for group insurance, $7,500 for retirement and $5,000 for gas and oil for the precinct’s vehicles.
District Clerk Shawntel Golden said her requested budget was mostly unchanged from the current year’s, though she requested raises for some of her employees, namely for her chief deputy, who Golden said is one of the lower-paid chief deputies in the county’s employ.
“My hot topic for about four years now has been chief deputy salary,” Golden said. “Three of you know that every year I’ve only asked for my chief deputy to be increased to $41,512, that’s pretty much in line with every other chief deputy.”
This year, Golden said, she was hoping to see her chief deputy earn a raise of $4,174. She also asked for a raise of $292 for her assistant chief deputy.
Golden requested $321,032 for salaries, an increase of roughly $16,000 from the $305,745 budgeted in the current fiscal year. Most other line items stayed roughly the same as the current fiscal year, or saw minor increases, like FICA payments, which rose from $23,891 to $25,085.
Group insurance fell, from $80,559 in the current fiscal year to a proposed $80,000.
Golden requested $550 for office supplies for some new office chairs, she said.In total, the district clerk’s requested budget came in at 497,693.