By Bob Belcher
Corsicana Daily Sun
Navarro County Commissioners on Tuesday kicked off a series of what will be several meetings over the next few weeks to plan the 2013-14 fiscal year budget that starts Oct. 1.
While the county won’t have a firm idea on revenues it can expect for a few days, several office holders made known their wishes for salary increases for their employees as the budget talks began Tuesday.
As a part of the budget process, office holders are asked to submit budget and personnel requests to the county auditor to begin work on the budget document.
Most of those offices requested salary increases ranging from cost of living adjustments to “large amounts,” said County Auditor Kathy Hollomon, who provided commissioners with an overview of the requests by each department.
While formal presentations made by individual office holders will spell out specific requests for salaries, personnel and equipment requests, Hollomon went over a summary of requested items with commissioners during Tueday’s workshop, including requests such as vehicles, office equipment and computers, software, and a new proposal for copiers for several courthouse offices.
County Tax Assessor/Collector Russell Hudson presented commissioners with a request signed on behalf of several elected county office holders asking commissioners to approve a $2,400 salary increase for every county employee in the new budget.
Hudson said in reading a statement to the commissioners that county employees had all played a role in helping keep costs down and the county “in the black” over the last year.
“We the undersigned elected officials in Navarro County ask the Navarro County Commissioners Court to give each full-time employee of Navarro County a $2,400 salary increase for the upcoming budget consideration. This increase is in recognition of the hard work of each office and employee in the county for controlling spending and helping keep expenses down,” he said.
“This is also in recognition that a Cost of Living increase has not been given over the last several years, while the cost of insurance and other household and family expenses have increased,” he added. “We as office holders will continue to carefully watch expenses in our departments, and budget accordingly, but ask that the Commissioners Court recognize that the most important asset the county has, and always will have, is its employees,” he concluded.
The statement was signed by Hudson, District Judge James Lagomarsino, Court-At-Law Judge Amanda Putman, Sheriff Elmer Tanner, District Attorney Lowell Thompson, District Clerk Josh Tackett, Justices of the Peace Vicki Gray, Kirby Hill, Jackie Freeland and Connie Hickman, County Clerk Sherry Dowd, Elections Administrator Danda Parker and Planning and Development Director Phillip Seely.
Tanner, in his presentation to commissioners Tuesday afternoon, said he is losing officers to surrounding agencies due to the county’s salary structure, and asked commissioners to increase the salary for starting officers by 10 percent over current budgeted levels.
“We are expending large sums of money to be a training facility for these other agencies,” Tanner told commissioners, citing the loss of several officers to other agencies due to the county pay structure.
Tanner shared with commissioners the results of a study of the starting salaries of several local law enforcement agencies — all with starting salaries above what Navarro County offers.
According to Tanner’s figures, the Ennis Police Department’s starting officer salary is $41,849; Corsicana Police, $41,338; Waxahachie Police, $39,000; Navarro College Police, $39,000; Corsicana ISD, $35 to $40,000; and Texas DPS, $47,000.
“We start at $36,000,” he said.
Tanner said the county spends significant amounts of money testing and training potential law enforcement applicants.
“Once they come on board, there are other expenses,” he added, including uniforms and additional training, only to be lost to other agencies that offer more pay.
“We’re at the point in time where we’re going to have to compete,” Tanner said. He said he didn’t expect to pay more than the other agencies, but did ask “to have a level playing field.”
The sheriff also pointed to a 50 percent increase in citation revenue his department has generated in the first six months of 2013 over year-ago figures as a sign of increased efficiency within the department, adding it was accomplished despite being down by three to five officers during the period.
Tanner was the first office holder to make a formal presentation to commissioners.
On Friday, commissioners will convene another workshop at 9 a.m., and are scheduled to hear from District Attorney Lowell Thompson; followed at 10 a.m. by the Justices of the Peace; Elections Administrator Danda Parker at 10:30 a.m.; Planning and Development Director Phil Seely at 11 a.m.; and District Judge James Lagomarsino at 11:30 a.m.
Commissioners have a regular meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday, followed by another budget workshop with County Clerk Sherry Dowd presenting requests at 1:30 p.m.; Tax Assessor/Collector Russell Hudson at 2 p.m., and County Treasurer Frank Hull at 2:30 p.m.
More office holders or department heads could be added to the schedule prior to the workshops.
In other action by commissioners Tuesday, contracts with a financial advisor and bond counsel for the proposed courthouse restoration were approved. County Judge H.M. Davenport Jr. said the firms would only be paid if the courthouse restoration project is approved in a planned November bond election.
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