McLennan County’s more than 900 employees are set to receive a 2.5 percent cost-of-living raise for 2018, and continue being eligible for a 2 percent performance-based bonus program started for this year.

Peace officers with the sheriff’s office and the jail are not included in the merit-based bonus program because the sheriff’s office has its own program for advancement.

The 2.5 percent, across-the-board, hike in pay will cost the county about $1.27 million and will be calculated based on 2018 salaries. At least 35 county employees have been approved for individual raises on top of the cost-of-living raise for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1.

County Judge Scott Felton said he wants to keep the rate for the incentive-pay program the same, at 2 percent, for its second year as department heads and elected officials continue to develop the program. Commissioners plan to budget $472,000 for it this year. In June, they approved more than $444,000 for this year’s bonuses.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Kelly Snell said one year is a short learning curve, and he would like to see managers better trained on the program before adding more money.

Full-time employees, excluding elected and appointed officials and department heads, are eligible for the bonuses. They are based on performance reviews by supervisors.

Commissioners have so far approved more than $662,000 in new personnel and more than $106,000 in individual raise requests for the upcoming budget year. They decided Wednesday to move the mental health court services coordinator position out of the department head division and under the umbrella of the county judge’s office. Mental Health Court Services Coordinator Tessa Slovak was one of two department heads seeking an individual raise for themselves.

Commissioners did not make a decision Wednesday on the second request, which came from Human Resources Director Amanda Talbert.

Talbert requested a $2,578.36 raise, which would increase her salary to $86,502.

No decision on the budget is final until the document is officially approved, which is set to happen Aug. 22.

Commissioners have four tentative meetings left before Tuesday, when they plan to have a draft budget ready to post to the county website for public review.

Tax rate, debt

Commissioners are still set to consider the county tax rate and any expenditures to pay down debt.

County Auditor Stan Chambers said the county still owes about $25 million to the Texas County and District Retirement System, issued by a previous court and scheduled to be paid off in 2037.

Chambers said $1 million paid down would reduce the county’s contribution rate by .17 percent, saving $71,461 a year for 20 years.

“It’s a smart move to pay what you can pay. It doesn’t get any cheaper,” Snell said.

Cassie L. Smith has covered county government for the Tribune-Herald since June 2014. She previously worked as a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise and The Eagle in Bryan-College Station. Smith graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington.

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