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Court makes progress on annual budget

By Bev Barr BCC Editor

The Bandera County Commissioners Court held a budget workshop Thursday, July 13, following their regular meeting. The Honorable Judge Evans advised the audience in the gallery of the courtroom that the budget was a work in progress and that even though the commissioners may vote to approve certain things in the budget, nothing is final at this stage.
Christina Moreno, the county auditor, said that personnel are the biggest driver of cost. She went over several options, line by line details and made her recommendations to the court regarding county employee benefits and payroll changes.
“Employees are our biggest asset,” Judge Evans said, a sentiment that was shared and articulated by others several times during the workshop.
The court approved a 3.25 percent total increase in budget expenditures for personnel costs, which includes increases in insurance premiums, merit raises, and an increase in cost of living.
The court agreed, too, on the value of employee retention, and approved pay raises within the sheriff’s department that puts that pay scale inline with sheriff’s departments in Medina and Kendall counties.
The commissioners voted unanimously against a pay raise for the Constable of Precinct 1 which would place his pay inline with employees in the sheriff’s department.
Observing the workshop was a bit like watching a family on tight budget work together cooperatively to insure that everyone gets what they need or require, even if it isn’t exactly what they want. Specifically, the commissioners discussed requests for vehicle upgrades from precinct constables, the sheriff department, the road and bridge commissioner, the fire department, the county engineer, and EMS. They agreed unanimously to purchase several new vehicles, but most of the vehicle upgrades will come from redistributing county-owned vehicles from within one department to another department. Commissioner Harris, for instance, will adopt the fire marshall’s truck when the fire marshall gets a new one. Juggling county assets resourcefully results in fewer overall purchases.
There were several moments of good-natured banter during the budget workshop, too. For instance, the Honorable Rod Chalmers, Constable for Precinct 4, justified his request for a specific make and model of an SUV and Commissioner Jody Rutherford wanted everybody to know that he was “totally against buying a hot pursuit car instead of a pickup truck” — but that he, Rutherford, would support Constable Chalmers request by voting for it.
Fire Marshall John Stith apparently had put in a budget request to replace a vehicle that is clearly falling short of his needs, but the commissioners unanimously agreed that he needed more of a truck than he originally requested. They opted for a ¾ ton instead of ½ ton, for instance.
“Our employees are our greatest asset,” Commissioner Rutherford said. “We need to provide them with good equipment and good vehicles to work with — for the benefit of our tax payers.”
Without exception, every one present — the county judge, the commissioners, other elected officials and county employees — were vigilant about saving tax-payers’ dollars and seemed to work together cooperatively and with a shared sense of purpose.
However, the constable from precinct 1, the Honorable Phillip Tobin, was not present at the budget workshop. Constable Tobin’s lack of response to personal requests from Judge Evans and Commissioner Eliker for reports and pertinent budget information generated justifiable chagrin among the court.
In other matters, the court considered the customary business of lots replats; considered and suggested a course of action for 2 property owners in Precinct 2 to make necessary legal changes to a non-existent public road that abuts with their property; approved a $10 archive fee for District and County Court records; approved a request by the director of Frontier Times Museum to open the old jail Saturday, July 15; heard a presentation from the Department of Health Services Zoonosis group about the importance of eliminating breeding grounds for mosquitoes; approved repairs, paving and dirt work in Mansfield Park for problems resulting from a flooding problem created a year ago whenever the FEMA funding comes through; thanked Tommy Crowe and accepted his donation of a refrigerator for Mansfield Park; and other routine matters.
Judge Evans encouraged the audience in the gallery to be aware that the Legislative Special Session is about to start and that agenda items include laws that will have a profound effect on rural towns and counties.