By Elsa Maxey
“We have a recession underway,” said Judge Bob Hebert at the Sept. 11 commissioners court meeting shortly before action was taken approving a 2.35 percent across the board salary increase for the county’s workforce. That’s when he made his position clear about neither supporting reclassifications in the form of adjustments for the district attorney’s office nor that of the assistant county attorney’s salary. There was also an adjustment proposed in the sheriff’s department.
Commissioner Richard Morrison said that his argument in support of both the county and district attorney’s office adjustments relate to undue taxpayer costs incurred for retraining when staff leaves for more attractive salaries and/or benefit offers. He said this causes civil court dockets to bog down and he contrasted how with the retention of attorneys, commissioners court runs smoothly because legal advice is provided in a timely manner.
“It’s going to take at least a year to train a new lawyer on how things run, and so I thought this was a reasonable request from both the district attorney and county attorney,” said Morrison, and “it’s just something that the public needs to know.”
Commissioner Grady Prestage, who made the motions for the salary adjustments, proposed that by April 2013, which is the mid point of the new budget year, a District Attorney prosecutor’s salary be increased to $102,737. He also asked commissioners court to adjust the Assistant County Attorney’s salary in the amount of $19,630.
Although sympathetic about Morrison’s position, Judge Hebert said “if we lose a skilled drag line operator from the Road and Bridge Department,” it also hurts the county. Judge Hebert explained that commissioners court has “to react to what we can do, and my problem and the reason why I will vote against this is that I can’t do it for everyone, so I’m not going to single out departments that we’re going to do it for.” One of the motions for the budget adjustments failed and the other was withdrawn.
There was also no action taken on position adjustments in the sheriff’s detention and law enforcement areas. Commissioner Prestage said there was concern about whether any action taken “would be legal.” Prestage was probably referring to whether the action would comply with “the civil service act we adopted earlier this year,” said Commissioner Andy Meyers.
Last week, Fort Bend County Commissioners Court also voted unanimously to adopt the county’s 2013 fiscal year budget which totals $250, 277,339. It includes the addition of a $300,000 non departmental contingency increase over last year amounting to $ 1,600,000. It also includes the raises for full time and part time employees, and funding for 2,076 positions, nine of which are newly created.
In other action, commissioners court’s set the salaries for elected officials of Fort Bend County in accordance with state law. The county judge’s annual salary is now $107,470, and commissioners will each earn $102,350 per year. Why is it that district judges will not get a raise from commissioners court? “The state district judges’ salaries are set and capped by law and they are currently under the maximum limit allowed under state law,” said Judge Hebert. “It’s not a matter set by the (commissioners) court, but by state law.”
Fort Bend County’s tax rate will remain the same for the new fiscal year beginning in October.
To review the new fiscal year salary and position listings, click the links below: