County budget process starts

Salary Increases Proposed for Elected Officials

By Becky Brewster

Culberson County Commissioners met in special session on July 22, 2019 to begin the 2019-2020 budget process. The Court decided on proposed raises for elected officials as the first step for the budget so they can go through the notification process in a timely manner as required by the Texas Local Government Code. In general, the proposal includes a 5% increase for most elected offices. This will bring the annual salary for Commissioners to $29,272.94. Judge Carlos Urias requested extra consideration for the position of Sheriff, noting that this office operates 24/7/365 and has much higher standards regarding education, duties and responsibilities than other elected offices. The Court agreed to include an additional 5% increase to the Sheriff’s salary proposal.

The Court was also presented with proposed budget requests from the various elected officials. They then discussed possible plans for a new Courthouse and Jail, a 7% increase on the effective tax rate, and employee salary increases and adjustments. Discussions will continue at the next budget workshop.

Adrian Hinojos, County Treasurer, discussed the County’s participation in the Texas County and District Retirement System (TCDRS) and requested that Commissioners decrease the service years for retirement at any age from 30 to 20. He noted that on a $3,250,000 annual salary budget, this change will net a $2,275 increase in the budget for retirement contributions. The County employees pay 7% of their salary into the system and it is matched at 160% by the County. The Court approved the change to be effective January 1, 2020. Hopefully, this will eliminate employees “treading water” until they reach retirement eligibility.

Hinojos then informed the Court that he had contacted TCDRS to see about buying back the months of service between his date of hire and the start of his retirement deductions. It turns out that he cannot buy it back himself; it is the County responsibility, and all employee data needs to be reviewed to encompass anyone who has this discrepancy. Files were reviewed starting January 2006, which is the date that part-timers were required to be covered by retirement. This review revealed that 29 employee accounts were affected. The Court authorized a lump sum payment of $107,402.80 from the County’s savings account to reconcile the issue. They will pursue a claim on the bond to try to recoup some of these expenses.

In other County business, the Court also:

Engaged Knapp and Co. for the County’s 2018-2019 Audit.

Approved a court-ordered refund for tax collections.

Approved lease agreements for postage machines.

Approved Hart Intercivic Extended Warranty for election equipment.

Approved 2020 Sheriff and Constable Fees at the same rate.

Discussed the need for rules and regulations governing the cemetery.

Discussed the need for expansion of the cemetery.

Heard reports on various County Projects.