County commissioners on Monday appointed election judges from each precinct for the upcoming November general election before hearing a proposal on iDocket software for the County and District Court Systems.

Commissioners will vote at the next meeting on the proposal to completely computerize the management of county or district court cases as mandated by the state by 2015.  A representative from iDocket gave commissioners three payment options for a five-year cost of $26,000.

Deborah Faulkner then presented commissioners with a proposed renewal packet for health insurance for county employees with a minimal cost increase of about $23 per employee per month.  At the same time, Ms. Faulkner advised the court that the county would also be receiving a refund in the amount of $50,932.44, because of a surplus in the TAC Health and Employee Benefits Pool.  Commissioners voted unanimously to renew insurance coverage with TAC HEBP for 2015.

County Treasurer Susie Hinojos then presented the court with documentation of required continuing education hours for the commissioners to approve.  Sheriff Oscar Carrillo was present to advise the court of his intention to purchase another vehicle to replace another department vehicle with high mileage.  Mr. Carrillo proposed transferring the 2007 Ford F-150 pickup to the county road and bridge department instead of trading it in on the new vehicle, and asked that commissioners contribute toward the purchase of the new vehicle in exchange for the old pickup.  Commissioners voted to table the matter until the new budget was approved to figure out what amount could be provided for the new vehicle purchase.

Deputy Olivia Legaretta, speaking for the Sheriff’s deputies, requested that commissioners reconsider current county policy, which requires that compensation time be used prior to employees taking a vacation.  Ms. Legaretta reported that one deputy had already lost 58 hours of vacation time because of the policy and that other deputies were in danger of the same.

The compilation of a large number of comp time hours has developed because of the department being short-staffed, but has put a burden on deputies who reported that they often worked hours without clocking in to avoid building up more comp time.  Commissioners said they will obtain the appropriate legal counsel to remedy the situation.

The court then heard from the assistant superintendent of McDonald’s Observatory, who gave a presentation on the increased lighting of a seven-county area due to the booming oil business.  The superintendent stated that the bright lights from thousands of oil rigs in the area was having a detrimental effect on the quality of telescope viewing at the observatory and requested that commissioners adopt a lighting ordinance which would cut down on the brightness of oil field lights by shielding lighting from pointing to the sky and simply aiming flood lights downward.  Commissioners unanimously voted to adopt the ordinance and to send the ordinance to all oil companies doing business in the area.

The court then voted to continue the County Road and Bridge Fee for 2015, which produces approximately $18,000 in revenue for the county toward road and bridge repair.  County Tax Assessor-Collector Molly Hernandez presented commissioners with the figures for the 2014 proposed effective tax rate for the county at 0.56162 and the 2014 rollback rate of 0.60655.

Both figures are significantly lower than the 2013 adopted effective tax rate of 0.69621.  According to Ms. Hernandez, the effective tax rate has dropped steadily every year for a total of $0.35 since 2011.  Before adjourning, commissioners decided to meet again on August 18 for a budget workshop.


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