McLennan County commissioners Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a raise for a department head and her staff during their continued discussions of the county’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Also during the meeting, the court debated the appropriateness of not having received a proposed budget from the district attorney’s office, while eliminating $200,000 across the board from department heads’ requests for fiscal year 2016, which begins Oct. 1.
County Judge Scott Felton said, and commissioners agreed, they did not need to wait until further in the budget process to approve a raise for Health Director Eva Cruz Hamby and her staff.
He said an example of Hamby’s continued improvement of the office is that she switched her office hours from five days a week to four 10-hour days, which has been a great success.
Felton said Hamby essentially has increased the amount of service her office offers, as extended office hours at the county allow residents to come before or after work during the week to conduct business, instead of having to take off in the middle of the workday.
“On Fridays, they weren’t getting anybody anyways,” he said. “She’s smart.”
Two department heads and five elected officials have asked for raises for themselves.
County Auditor Stan Chambers said Hamby eliminated one position from her fiscal year 2016 budget, then moved funding around to provide a raise for herself and her two employees.
Hamby’s salary will go from $68,750 to $75,750, and the eligibility specialist’s salary will go from $39,746 to $40,500, while the intake specialist’s salary increases from $31,526 to $32,750.
Hamby cut $39,746 from the fiscal year 2016 budget by eliminating a salary.
Commissioners also decided during the meeting to skip for the day discussions on requests from the human resources director, the sheriff’s office and the jail because of concerns about the size of some of the requests.
After some talk regarding budget requests from Human Resources Director Amanda Talbert, Felton said, “I guess it goes without saying we schedule her a time to come in and have a presentation.”
Talbert requested a new position with a salary of $65,000, which, if approved, would bring her staff to four full-time positions and one part-time position.
Her requests also include raises for two positions, $4,500 to advertise online for job openings, $350 for a tablecloth for job fairs and $13,000 for furniture, among other things.
Commissioner Lester Gibson said he is not against increases to the budget, but that some department heads need to come before commissioners to justify certain requests.
The sheriff’s and jail budgets include an approximately $1.1 million request for 16 vehicles and seven new employees at a total of $342,852 for salaries and supplies, among other things.
With the court already a few weeks into budget discussions, Chambers repeated to commissioners that he still had not received a budget from District Attorney Abel Reyna.
Chambers said his office has reminded the district attorney’s office daily to submit the proposed budget for consideration by commissioners.
He said the reason given by the DA’s office is “they’ve been very busy.”
Commissioner Ben Perry said he has talked on multiple occasions to Reyna and that the DA is trying to figure out how the May 17 shooting at Twin Peaks, which left nine bikers dead and 20 wounded, is going to play out and affect the budget.
Perry said Reyna is close to having a completed budget to present to commissioners.
Commissioner Lester Gibson asked commissioners what they would do if next year every department decided not to turn in a proposed budget on time.
Perry replied by saying it would be worse if commissioners pressured Reyna and he submitted inaccurate figures.
Commissioners will continue budget talks at their 9 a.m. Tuesday meeting. Commissioners can agree on requests and specifics for the budget, but nothing is final until the budget is officially adopted by Aug. 31.
At a glance
What: McLennan County Commissioners Court continues fiscal year 2016 budget talks
When: 9 a.m. Tuesday
Where: Commissioners Courtroom on the first floor of the McLennan County Courthouse, 501 Washington Ave.