@KingWm

Fayette County, Texas - Commissioners Court 8/10/2023

Debate & Dissent But No Cuts, What Elephant?

Elephant in the Room

Finally, a meeting with some meat in it.  After weeks of mild discussion without debate, the budget finally gets some much needed scrutiny and criticism.  Unfortunately, the response of the Court was not to cut spending (at 9.3%, the largest increase since 2012), but to increase revenue projections to more or less balance the budget.  A lot of things were discussed, but the elephant in the room was clearly the salary contest during the discussion on elected officials’ salaries.  Awkward doesn’t begin to describe it.  In fact, written words can’t do it justice, you must listen to the entire conversation and judge for yourself.

You must listen to my public comments and the salary discussion.  You should also listen to the entire budget conversation; it is basically the only real discussion there has been this entire process.

SCROLL DOWN FOR:

  • meeting audio with timestamps
  • more commentary
  • another budget spreadsheet
  • Sheriff & EMS salary analysis
  • The most recent proposed budget

In short, last week the Sheriff was asking for a salary of $80k (total) and now he is asking for $95k because that is the proposed salary of the EMS Director.  The County Judge makes $96k per year so the EMS Director, at the proposed salary, I believe, could be the highest paid individual in the county (if overtime is allowed).  When asked directly about the salary increase for the Sheriff, there was a lot of awkwardness as people avoided the conversation.  After 20 minutes, the whole truth finally came out.

The salary vote was 4 to 1 with McBroom voting nay (I thought Berckenhoff would vote nay also).  The budget vote was 3 to 2 with McBroom and Berckenhoff voting nay.  Judge Mueller was having a hard time getting seconds from the Court.  On two occasions, his motions went without seconds for a long period of time, which is very unusual.  Eventually, they were both seconded by Sternadel, again, unusual.  It is very unusual to have split votes so these votes alone are newsworthy.

Senate Bill 22 was brought up during the salary discussion.  It is short and worth reading.

https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/88R/billtext/html/SB00022F.htm

Audio Recording

Clickable Timestamps

NOTE:  By court rules, we are allowed 5 uninterrupted minutes and by law, they are not allowed to comment.  I spoke during this time specifically so that I could have several uninterrupted minutes.  I used 4 minutes of my time, including the interruption.

3 weeks ago, we were prepared to study 7% increases for those two departments.  At the meeting, EMS requested 10% and the Judge offered to give the Sheriff Office 10% as well.  Apparently, the Sheriff’s Office 10% was reduced to 7% last week in closed-door discussions without letting the public know.  So, the current budget proposal, I believe, includes 7% for the Sheriff’s Office and 10% for EMS.

I agree with Berckenhoff and McBroom.

So What Do We Do?

The budget will be submitted to the County Clerk by 8/15 for public viewing.  There will be a public hearing, I believe at the end of this month, but the final budget has to be adopted by 9/15 I believe.  So, we still have time to contact our Commissioners, our County Judge and attend meetings to make your voices heard.

2023 Budget & Historical Salary Comparison, EMS & Sheriff

 
The conversation about salaries lead me to research the historical salaries of those positions and compare them to other counties.  The spreadsheet is available to download, and I made a video explaining my numbers.  In short, I support a salary of ±$80k for the Sheriff ($4,000 more than currently proposed, not including the stipend) because that position, in my opinion, has been historically underpaid and it would be commensurate with other counties.  I support a salary for the EMS Director of ±88.5k, a 2.3% increase over current salary, because that position received a large salary increase of 7.7% just three years ago when the current Director joined the county.  The salary of that position has grown much faster than other positions in the county and exceeds the other counties in our peer group.  As an aside, I think the Commissioners are a little underpaid too.  Look at the numbers, watch the video, judge for yourself.
 
 
 
 

The budget information is usually near the end of the minutes package.