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2013-08-01

Step & grade increases may be on tap for Bandera County

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

In addition to funding a proposed 5.24 percent pay raise for all Bandera County employees and elected officials - including those earning over $50,000 a year - local taxpayers will probably have to cough up for step and grade raises for employees in several departments.
The across-the-board raise, made in a motion by fledgling Precinct 1 Commissioner Bob Grimes and seconded by newly minted Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Wilkerson, will add $400,000 to the budget's bottom line. Previously, commissioners had approved a 1.24 cost of living increase for all county employees and elected officials - save themselves and Judge Richard Evans.
It was not clear whether employees benefitting from step and grade increases, that would include significant salary bumps, would also receive the additional 5.24 percent raise, but all signs may point to "yes."
During a budget workshop on Thursday, July 25, Precinct 2 Commissioner Bobby Harris noted that step and grade increases in the Bandera County Sheriff's Department and EMS could potentially add another chunk to the budget - $250,000 for the sheriff's department and $112,000 for EMS.
Also supporting the step and grade increases, Grimes noted that the increases would assist retaining trained officers and medical personnel. "If we can retain them, the cost for the county will be lower in the long run," he said. "That would replace the higher cost of replacing deputies who leave for monetary reasons."
Sheriff Dan Butts told the court that the salaries of his deputies are substantially lower - approximately $5,000 - than those in surrounding counties. "Of course, all the other sheriffs in the other counties will be asking for salary increases also," Butts said.
Concurring, Judge Richard Evans said, "As we train people they become more expensive but they give better service." He added, "After taking a survey of surrounding counties, it's apparent you don't have to go far to find a better job."
According to Butts, the starting salary for a patrol deputy in Bandera County is $33,000. In Gillespie, Kendall and Kerr counties, the starting salary is $40,000 while in Medina and Uvalde counties, it is $38,000.
Butts also told the court that his department has hired 10 new deputies since Jan. 1 and is now fully staffed with four deputies currently in training.
Regarding the proposed step and grade raises, Harris said, "I don't know if this will get us where we need to be with our peer counties, but I do know it helps to have deputies who know the county and the players."
Others who are eligible for step and grade increases and title changes include employees in offices of the district and county clerks.
Treasurer Billie Reeves wants her part-time employee to be elevated to the position of assistant treasure to enable him to assume her duties if necessary.
Wilkerson asked for a full-time manager at Mansfield Park, but would relinquish two part-time employees, thus using no additional tax money. In fact, the move would decrease the budget by $20,000.
Noting that the increased salaries would weigh heavily on all county residents, Harris said, "Everyone in the room has a stake in this - all the taxpayers. It's our job to whittle the budget into something we can live with and the people in this room can live with."