Coryell County commissioners discuss budget, raises for officials
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The Coryell County Commissioners’ Court met to continue discussions regarding the budget and raises for certain elected officials and county employees during a special meeting held Monday morning.
The meeting was called by Precinct 1 Commissioner Kyle Matthews after he discovered an error in the wording of the public notice published in the Gatesville Messenger regarding the budget and the raises for elected officials.
The notice, published on August 14, 2019, reads that “the proposed budget contains a cost of living increase for all elected officials of Coryell County of 2.00%, except for the County Judge, which is 13.8 %, and the Court at Law Judge, which is 23.3%.”
Matthews explained in a phone call with the Copperas Cove Leader-Press that anytime a raise for an elected official is proposed, notification of that must be placed in the newspaper and exposed to the public for 10 days.
“The original notice that went out in the paper was that everybody got a two percent cost of living raise,” Matthews said. “Well, that’s incorrect, so I contacted the County Attorney and went over the law with him, and he said, ‘We need to have another meeting, you’re right,’ and we talked about the proposed raises. All elected officials, except for the J.P.s, got a [2 percent] cost of living raise. The J.P.s got a little bit of a larger raise because of some of the stuff that they’re having to deal with now, and to be honest with you, they’re below other counties around us. Way below Bell County obviously and McLennan County, so we’re trying to get them back up to where they should be.”
The proposed budget for FY 2020 is available to view in the County Clerk’s office in Gatesville and in the Tax Office in Copperas Cove, as well as online at https://coryellcounty.org/county-information/transparency/.
In the FY 2020 proposed budget, the Justice of the Peace Precinct 1 budget increases from $116,319.97 to $124,023.97. For J.P. Precinct 2, the budget increases from $110,674 to $119,022.08. For J.P. Precinct 3, the budget increases from $116,719.19 to $129,061.69, and for J.P. Precinct 4, from $116,429.19 to $128,461.69.
Each of the Justices of the Peace received a $3,000 salary increase, from $46,847.38 to $49,847.38, while the “salaries other” increased by more than $5,000 for J.P. Precincts 1 and 2 and by more than $3,000 for Precincts 3 and 4.
Matthews also explained about the County Judge Roger Miller’s salary increase, which totals $18,000, he said.
Matthews stated that the County Judge sits on the Juvenile Board, made up of a group of individuals that help make decisions about the county processes regarding juvenile issues in the juvenile justice system.
From sitting on this board, Miller receives a portion of his salary from the Juvenile Board and from Juvenile Contract Services, in addition to the main budget, Matthews said.
Matthews added that he wasn’t aware of former county judge John Firth ever receiving this part of the salary.
With this board and the funds paid as a result, Matthews said that a certain percentage of the County’s budget goes to the state, with the state reimbursing the county to operate the juvenile justice business of the county.
“I don’t want to say it’s hidden, but that’s how the accounting portion goes,” Matthews said.
Under Reimbursements, the budget shows $25,200 for County Judge State Supplement for FY 2019 as well as for the proposed FY 2020. In the budget, under General Fund Expenditures, the County Judge’s salary increases from $71,953 to $72,888, while the overall County Judge budget increases from $144,929 to $152,526.
The 23.3 percent for County Court at Law Judge is shown in the increase from $139,000 in the FY 2019 budget to $167,000 in the FY 2020 budget.
County commissioners even got a 2 percent cost of living raise, which hasn’t been given for as long as Matthews has been a Commissioner, Matthews said.
“There’s only one reason why I didn’t argue with it this year, because you had judges that were getting that much and you have one Commissioner that is not going to run again, be it Don Jones, so that would kind of help in aiding his retirement some,” Matthews said.
The total budget for the Commissioners Court, which includes salaries, auto allowances, health insurance, retirement, office supplies, telephone, travel, software maintenance, bonds and miscellaneous, increased from $283,117.64 to $285,311.40.
Other significant budget increases include a nearly $20,000 increase in the salary of the County Attorney and a $3,405 increase for the portion of what the County pays for the District Attorney’s salary.
The Sheriff’s Office saw an overall salary increase of more than $75,000 from $1,739,859.36 to $1,815,241.06 for all salaries.
The budget for the jail includes an approximate increase of $129,000, from $3,193,872.99 to $3,322,900.10.
Of that increase, Prisoner Board went up from $1.045 million to $1.117 million for housing prisoners outside the Coryell County Jail, and funds for food for inmates increased by $30,000. Funds for medical and hygiene increased from $180,000 to $240,000.
Matthews said that the Commissioners also discussed the idea of a purchasing department, previously proposed by Miller.
Matthews said he didn’t “see the need in creating an entire new department and spending $100,000 and not being able to save. We can do better practice with our current system in honing our skills as far as purchases than spend $100,000 to save a penny or whatever, because you don’t know what that department is going to save.”
According to the budget posted on the county website, the total amount for the Purchasing Department was proposed at $86,254, with $52,000 being the salary of the purchaser.
Matthews pointed out that Coryell County buys in bulk anyways and that other counties that are the same size operate without a purchasing department.
Some counties opt to hire a clerical position to assist the auditor and process the purchasing requests, which Matthews said he would rather do.
“Take baby steps. If we’re going to hire somebody, at least hire somebody on the lowest level to pay and aid the auditor in purchasing items and looking for good deals versus creating entire departments,” Matthews said.