County deliberates budget during lengthy work session

By Becky Brewster

Culberson County Commissioners held a public hearing regarding the 2016-2017 Budget. Representatives of various departments and local entities reiterated funding requests for consideration in the budget during the hearing.  Rita Carrasco, JP Precinct One, presented information on new software (Net Data) for the four JP offices at a cost of $5000 per JP per year, plus a $10K startup and training fee.  The existing software which currently costs the County around $3500 per JP per year is no longer adequate.  The new software is supposed to allow the JP offices to be more efficient and productive.  In line with this, the Court discussed the creation of a judicial center to bring the County into compliance with State regulations as well as staffing issues for the JPs.  Judge Carlos Urias stated that “A judicial center will pay for itself.”  The JP offices have collected over $600K in the first 10 months of the fiscal year, and collections are only expected to increase with the implementation of the new software.   Michael Davis, JP Precinct Three, expressed concerns with the staffing proposal for the judicial center and reported that many of the issues at the JP Courts have to do with the lack on voice mail on the new phone system.

Judge Urias reviewed the 2016-2017 Budget by outlining various proposed projects, equipment needs, staffing issues and requests from local entities.  The Court had a lengthy discussion on proposed salary increases, comp time issues, salary adjustments for individual employees, and increased staffing for various departments.  The general consensus of the Court was to budget for a 7% salary increase for full-time employees and a $.55/hour increase for part-time employees.

Sheriff Oscar Carrillo requested an increase in the proposed budget for the Sheriff’s Office to provide for additional training, to purchase “non-lethal options” noting the existing Tasers are no longer supported, and to purchase two replacement vehicles.

County Auditor Mark Cabezuela will include all the items agreed upon by the Commissioners in the next budget draft for the next budget work session scheduled for August 23, 2016.   It was noted that the proposals and wage increases will exceed the FY 2015-2016 projected carryover.   The Court agreed to look into using some of the funds in the savings account to offset one-time purchases and projects.   Judge Urias stated the savings account and CDs brings the County’s reserves to approximately 100% of the County’s operating budget while the industry standard is to have reserves of 3-6 months of operating expenses.

In other business, the Commissioners increased the fee schedule for utility permits.