Fayette County, Texas - Commissioners Court 5/2/2024

Divided Court Approves SB22 Budget

The tension in the Courtroom today was palpable as the SB22 budget was narrowly approved by a 3/2 vote.  While the simpler and generally smaller requests made by the Constables and County Attorney’s Office received little scrutiny, the request by the Sheriff’s Office drew criticism and ultimately divided the Court.  At issue was the overall use of the funds, the size and distribution of the pay increases, the approval authority and the audit trail.  Some things can’t be reported on, you just have to hear it for yourself.  This is one such occasion.  It’s only 16 minutes.

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The Commissioners Court must budget and approve all expenditures of all county funds, regardless of the source.  This approval authority is subject also to the approval of the County Auditor, who must [countersign all expenditures].  No elected official or department head has unilateral authority, or “full discretion”, over any part of the budget, or any funds received by the county.

In this case, they have alleged from the beginning that the Sheriff had “full discretion” to use the funds without Court approval, and that the Court simply would have to “acknowledge” the Sheriff’s plan when it was revealed, and that the auditor would simply have to make the necessary budget amendments.  There is no language in SB22 which grants any such discretion to the Sheriff.

The details were only provided recently, and they have been kept secret likely because the raises are so large that they worry about the backlash.  In general, when you compare the salaries they were getting last year (after a 5% increase) to the salaries they will be getting now, with the 7% raises this year, the 7.5% increase they got this year due to changes in the payroll schedule, and these 15+% grant fund requests essentially doubling that, the employees in the Sheriff’s Office are getting on average a 30+% increase in overall compensation this year from last.

I am happy that they will all get such nice salaries on top of their benefits.  Their jobs are difficult and with rampant inflation outpacing wage increases, even less affordable.  That goes for everyone.  Budget season has even started yet, and I can’t wait to see the budget requests for payroll increases this year.

Audio Recording

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