Three elected McLennan County officials and 33 other county employees were approved for raises Tuesday after commissioners reviewed requests for the upcoming fiscal year’s budget.

One of the elected officials didn’t even ask for the pay hike.

County commissioners worked through 55 requested raises for individual employees, which would have added a total of more than $165,000 to the budget. Commissioners approved about $85,000 in raises.

Raises

The three elected leaders who will receive raises in the upcoming fiscal year include Precinct 5 Justice of the Peace Fernando Villarreal, Precinct 3 Constable David Maler and Precinct 4 Constable Stan Hickey.

Villarreal’s salary will go from $54,931 to $57,431. Both constables’ salaries will be bumped to $45,367, which is the amount Precinct 5 Constable Freddie Cantu makes. Maler’s salary for 2017 was set at $41,921, and Hickey’s was at $37,425.

Hickey did not request an increase, but he was making less money than his deputy, and his pay was not in line with other constables, Precinct 4 Commissioner Ben Perry said.

County commissioners still have a few raise requests to consider, including two from department heads. Human Resources Director Amanda Talbert requested a $2,578.36 raise, which would increase her salary to $86,502. Mental Health Court Services Coordinator Tessa Slovak is requesting a $7,023.55 increase in pay, which would move her salary to $62,217.

Commissioners are set to vote next week on the proposed tax rate for fiscal year 2018. They plan to file a proposed budget with the county clerk’s office the same day, which will be posted on the county’s website for public review.

Commissioners are scheduled to vote to adopt the budget and tax rate Aug. 22. The fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

Law enforcement

Commissioners agreed to requests for 10 new personnel positions from the sheriff. Three of the positions are for jailers, and three are for booking tech assistants for the county jail.

On the sheriff’s office side, commissioners approved two new corporal investigators, a deputy lieutenant, and a shift from part-time to full-time for an evidence technician position.

Last year, the county added new positions to the county jail in an effort to comply with Texas Commission on Jail Standards recommendations. McLennan County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Ricky Armstrong said the requests for fiscal year 2018 are a continuation of the effort to meet the jail recommendations.

The sheriff’s office is implementing the recommendations in phases to ease the burden on the county budget, Armstrong said.

“If we don’t address this now we’re going to face compliance issues or we’re going to see them next year at budget,” Perry said.

Countywide, requests for new positions total more than $890,000. Commissioners have approved $662,000 in new positions so far.

Rural animals

Commissioners also agreed Tuesday to continue funding the Animal Birth Control Clinic, with $19,000 for the upcoming fiscal year.

Executive director Carrie Kuehl said with the money last year, the clinic was able to focus efforts on semi-rural and rural parts of the county. With the county’s portion, the organization was able to spay or neuter 385 animals, Kuehl said.

“That’s a lot of bang for your buck,” she said.

Gina Ford, with the clinic, said the funding went straight to medical expenses. They used other funds to increase marketing to help promote the program.

“We went through the funds in 22 weeks,” she said. “We think that always shows a lot of merit to the demand that’s out there as well as the need.”

Perry said having spayed and neutered 385 animals means there are at least another 1,000 animals the shelter isn’t trying to find homes for.

Nothing is final in the budget until the official document is approved.

Budget discussions continue at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Commissioners Courtroom on the first floor of the McLennan County Courthouse.

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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