Burnet County proposes salary raises in budget

By Lew K. Cohn

Managing Editor

Burnet Bulletin

Burnet County commissioners are expected to propose an overall tax rate of 39.99 cents per $100 valuation at a special called meeting at 9 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 8, in order to support a proposed $29.92 budget for fiscal year 2020.

Burnet County officials projected an additional $2,030,360 in tax revenue in fiscal year 2020, which would be an increase of 8.5 percent, which includes $858,194 coming from new construction added to the tax roll.

The proposed budget includes a nearly $23.2 million general fund budget, a $3.62 million road and bridge fund budget and a $3.1 million debt service budget.

Highlights of the budget include a minimum 2 percent salary increase for all county employees, as well as extra longevity pay for Burnet County Sheriff's Office employees and extra pay hikes for the district judges, district attorney, county attorney, constables, county court at law judge, county judge and commissioners.

The county is also budgeting a $2.53 million transfer from the general fund to jail operations to help pay for expenses — up from $2.46 million in fiscal year 2019 — as the county is projecting to take in $476,000 less for housing inmates in fiscal year 2020.

Meanwhile, commissioners are also following through on a proposal to lower the amount of funding they send to volunteer fire departments that are part of an emergency service district. Funding has been completely removed from the budget for Burnet Fire Department and the now-defunct Briggs VFD.

Funding has been cut in half from $23,337 to $11,668.50 for Bertram VFD, Burnet VFD, Cassie VFD, East Lake Buchanan VFD, Granite Shoals VFD, Marble Falls Area VFD, Oakalla VFD and Spicewood VFD. Cottonwood Shores VFD and Hoover Valley VFD, both of which do not have an emergency services district, will continue to receive $23,337 each in the proposed budget.

The county would continue to pay $43,776 for the departments' radio subscription fees as part of the Western County Tower System.

The general fund budget being proposed is balanced, with $23,182,268.57 in revenues and expenditures projected (including nearly $4.58 million in transfers from the general fund to the inmate housing, indigent health care and library funds). It is about $99,000 less in expenditures than the fiscal 2019 budget.

Salary increases

The following elected officials are projected to receive more than a 2 percent raise under the proposed budget: Burnet County Judge James Oakley; Commissioners Jim Luther Jr., Damon Beierle, Billy Wall and Joe Don Dockery; County Court at Law Judge Linda Bayless; Sheriff Calvin Boyd; Constables Leslie Ray, Garry Adams, Chip Leake and Missy Bindseil; District Judges Evan Clay Stubbs and Allan Garrett; District Attorney Wiley “Sonny” McAfee; and County Attorney Eddie Arredondo.

The proposed budget is posted online at burnetcountytexas.org.

The budget calls for a $3,286 pay increase from $69,972 to $73,258 for the county's four commissioners as well as a $4,431 pay raise from $82,285 to $86,716 for Oakley and a $18,348 pay increase for Bayless from $139,000 to $157,348.20.

The constables will receive $57,242, up $2,205 from $55,037 in fiscal year 2019, while Arredondo's salary will jump from $114,548 to $118,684, an increase of $4,136. Boyd's salary will increase by $3,315 to $85,322.

Stubbs and Garrett will receive an additional $4,348 each from Burnet County as its 54.15 percent share of a $8,030 supplemental increase from the four counties which make up their judicial districts, while McAfee will receive the same salary supplement.

Oakley said the increase in salaries began as a snowball effect from the Legislature's passage of HB 2384, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law in June. The bill increases salaries for district judges, county court at law judges and statutory county judges.

“Once that law was signed, it required an increase by law to the salaries for the district and county attorney as well,” Oakley said.

Oakley said Boyd asked for and was granted longevity pay increases for his employees. Because the salaries of the constables are tied to the salary of a Deputy IV — the highest level of patrol deputy — the constables all received larger pay increases as well.

He also said he put in for an additional $1,887 raise for commissioners due to their position as precinct-wide elected officials overseeing the road and bridge departments in their precincts.

“I believe they should be paid more in line with how the justices of the peace are paid,” Oakley said, “so I made the request that they receive an additional raise to bring their salaries up to equal the JPs.”

The county's four JPs will also receive $73,258 each in salary for fiscal year 2020.

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