Commissioners Court 9-5-18: Van Zandt County Budget and Tax Rate Approved and So Much More
On September 5, 2018, at 9:00 a.m., Commissioners Court convened with the Honorable Don Kirkpatrick and all four Commissioners present. The 26-item agenda was a full one, with business such as adopting the budget, tax rate, and county employee vacation schedule, as well as approval needed for numerous donations, fee schedules and budget amendments.
Though it wasn’t the first item on the agenda, it is important to note that the Burn Ban remains lifted. Fire Marshal James Lehman of course made the recommendation based on expected rainfall. The Court voted unanimously to not reinstate the Burn Ban.
Restructuring of Official’s Salaries
During Commissioners Court on August 22, 2018, there was discussion to set elected officials salaries based on Local Government Code 152.013. This code basically guides the Commissioners Court through the procedure for setting salary amounts, the time schedule to do so, and the employee notification process. The Commissioners Court determined early in the process, that a standard needed to be set across the county, and consistent between districts. The goal was to adjust all salaries to be position-based salaries, and not merit-based. Tremendous research went into exploring the standard set in comparable sized counties throughout Texas. The new salary range project was done in conjunction with setting the annual budget.
The goal to standardize salaries was to further the Court’s mission of fiscal responsibility. Consequently, even though many salaries increased, there was a salary that needed to decrease to meet the new standard. The employee negatively impacted, appealed to the court to keep his salary. The appeal was denied. That employee then had the opportunity to take his complaint to the Grievance Committee, who heard his case before the convening of this Commissioners Court session.
After the Grievance Committee heard the employee’s grievance, the Committee made a recommendation to the Commissioners Court. If the 9 panel Citizen-Committee were to unanimously vote in favor of the employee’s request, the commissioners would have to honor that outcome. Since the vote was not unanimous, the Commissioners Court could again vote down the request. The employee was given the opportunity to appeal to the court one last time before a final outcome was voted upon. The Court determined to maintain the position-based salary. Though the members of the Commissioners Court encouraged the employee, citing the quality of his work and his value as an employee, the gentleman was naturally disappointed.
Library Advisory Board Members up for consideration
The 2018-2019 Van Zandt County Library Advisory Board Members were up for consideration. Volunteer county-residents comprise The board. The members are nominated to serve a 3 years term, that is approved by the Commissioners Court each year. The board’s purpose is to advise the Commissioners Court on policies and procedures, assist the library Director, and promote the library and its activities. The Court approved the nominees without discussion.
Fiscal Year (FY) 2018-2019 Budget, which begins on October 1, 2018, was adopted.
Two $500.00 donations were up for consideration. The Van Zandt Criminal District Attorney’s office is proposing the donations. The source is the Forfeiture Fund, comprised of property and money confiscated as a result of felonious criminal activity. District Attorney Chris Martin made the presentation to the court. The first donation recommended and approved was to the Edgewood Police Department. The funds would assist them in getting equipment for a child identification (ID) program. A representative from the Edgewood Police Department addressed the court giving details. The police department would share the ID equipment with the school system. The program goes well beyond traditional programs, utilizing digitized fingerprints and identification information that can then go into a National data bank in case a child goes missing. The second donation recommended and approved goes to the East Texas Crisis Center.
$5,000.00 bonds were approved for the new District Clerk Deputies, Peggy Cassell and Stormy Canady. Employees who handle money are bonded as an insurance policy.
Two final plats were approved, which is the division of established property boundaries. The first approval was the Jacky Ray Estates, lots 6 and 7 on Country Road 2704. The second, The Mayne Event, Lots 1-4 on County Road 1603.
The Van Zandt County employee holiday schedule for FY 2018-2019 was discussed and approved. Employees were granted 14 days a year.
2018-2019 County Tax Rate
Two public hearings on the tax rate were held. The first hearing was during last Commissioners Court on August 22nd. The second was held at 6:00 p.m. on August 27th. During the first public hearing, the only recommendation made by a citizen, was to raise taxes to better pay employees. The Court thanked the individual for their support of county employees, but the tax rate was not raised. The rate remains the same as the 2017-2018 tax year, at the rate of .615847 per $100. See the August 10, 2018 article on Commissioners Court, for further detail on what comprises county taxes and the tax rate.
Fee schedules for the Van Zandt County Fire Marshal, Sheriff and Constable were all accepted and approved.
Economic Development Study for I-20 Corridor
Pam Pierson presented a request to the Commissioners Court for $14,250.00, to come from the County Economic Funds budget category, to finance a study. The I-20 East Corridor group will contract to do an economic development study. The goal is to understand who drives into the area to work, what businesses and skill sets do we currently have, what businesses do we lack, and what would it take to bring more business into our community. This study would be useful information for both economic development, and determining what trades need to be taught in local high schools and trade schools.
A $10,000 grant to the Children’s Advocacy Center was proposed and approved. During discussion, a presentation was made on all that the organization accomplishes. Their mission includes assisting law enforcement and Child Protective Services, conducting forensic interviews, providing trauma counseling, offering education to the community, maintaining a 24/7 toll-free hotline, and hosting special holiday parties for the children served. The funds will come out of the County’s 2018 budget.
Another grant for $3,475.25 was discussed and approved for Meals on Wheels Ministry, Inc. This organization serves the East Texas elderly and disabled who are homebound, and is mainly volunteer run.
Cindy Malouf was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Cultural Education Facilities Corporation Board.
The agenda was completed with 2018 Budget Amendments being presented and approved.
Susan Skommesa is a freelance writer and editor with The Northeast Texan. Her many interests include studying Biblical and Paleo-Hebrew, renovating houses, all things health and nutrition, knitting, homesteading, and teaching and writing on topics of faith, gardening, pets, chickens, and human interest.