County Commissioners vote themselves a raise

Posted in Commissioners Court, Taxes, The Budget, Williamson County at 10:41 pm by wcnews

Via the RRL, Wilco elected officials to get 3 percent raises.

By a 4-0 vote Tuesday the Williamson County Commissioners Court approved 3-percent raises for 19 elected county officials, adding $56,759 to a general fund budget that currently stands at about $126 million.

The vote (with Pct. 1 Commissioner Lisa Birkman absent) followed two weeks of discussion and debate concerning what counties Williamson ought to compare itself to when setting salaries for elected officials and employees. Employee salaries for fiscal 2012-13 will be discussed later this month, with budget adoption set for Aug. 28.

Regardless of the comparison group, several elected officials said if they and their peers didn’t get raises for the year ahead, it would mark five consecutive years without salary increases.

“I’m just saying that four years in a row without a raise puts us behind,” County Clerk Nancy Rister told Judge Dan Gattis and the county commissioners Tuesday. “If you keep doing this you’ll get so far behind you’ll never catch up.

“This is not [just] for the elected officials in office now. When that elected official retires and you have other candidates running, you’re not going to get quality candidates. The kind of candidates you’ll get are people you do not want in office. You need experience. You need people with a college degree. You need education and experience.”

District Clerk Lisa David voiced similar concerns, stating she didn’t run for office because of the salary, but “I didn’t realize that would remain my salary for the rest of my time as district clerk.”

Well good for them. But the vote isn’t looking so good for county employees.

When it comes to county salaries, two issues remain - one short-term and the other long.

For the immediate future - and with the new fiscal year starting Oct. 1 ¬- commissioners must soon decide if they are going to grant employee raises this year. The county has about 1,600 full-time employees.

The current 2011-12 county budget contains about $900,000 in raises. That total consists of 1.5 percent across-the-board salary increases for civilian employees, plus 2.5-percent raises for the county’s approximately 500 jail and sheriff’s office employees.

For fiscal 2011-12 county department heads received 1-percent raises and appointed (as opposed to hired or elected) leaders got raises of 1.5 percent.

Zirkle said she recommended 3 percent raises for elected officials last year, but commissioners nixed the idea.

Blaylock said no employees raises will be included in her proposed budget for 2012-13, which she’s scheduled to present to commissioners Aug. 7.

In March, commissioners instructed Blaylock to bring them a balanced budget without raising taxes.

“There’s no way I could do that and give any cost-of-living or merit raises,” Blaylock said Tuesday.

But that doesn’t mean the issue is settled.

Budgets are moral documents, and the commissioners have certainly seen fit to take care of themselves first.

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