On Monday, August 8, County Commissioners held special and regular meetings. The special session was a workshop to discuss the proposed 2017 budget and the focus of the meeting was the Sheriff’s office budget requests.
The requests included a change in pay for three positions. The change in protocol was questioned and an explanation was requested regarding why there would be someone with five years of experience moved to the same level with someone who has 16 years experience. Silsbee Chief of Police, Mark Davis, said that the pay scale is poorly designed with some supervisors making less than the people they are supervising. Davis said about the pay increases, “That’s a quick fix that gets us on the road to where we need to be but it’s still not a perfect answer.” The commissioners have asked that the pay scale be compared to other agencies in the county.
Judge Wayne McDaniel said that based on conversations with the Sheriff, he has decided to move the cell phone allowance up to the requested $3,600 rather than the reduced $2,400. McDaniel said, as an example, “We had a missing person last week that some guys had to be out in the woods looking for and were using their cell phones for GPS and what-have-you and I was requested to rethink that.”
The commissioners decided to leave the proposal as is without any increases until they receive the revised numbers from the appraisal district. Once that has happened, there will be another workshop.
Other changes from the proposed budget to the final budget include a decrease in a purchase agent’s salary and moving a district clerk employee from part-time to full-time status.
Later in the morning, the commissioners reconvened to hold the regular meeting. During this meeting, Ralph Wallace of TCDRS (Texas County & District Retirement System) presented the summary for benefit levels at retirement and discussed the plan for 2017.
Wallace stated that with the current benefits, 7% of a paycheck is paid into the plan each month with Hardin County offering a set matching rate of $2 for every one of the employee’s dollars at retirement. In order to earn that right to retirement, someone has to have eight years of employment at the county. There are a few ways to retire with the county; age 60 with at least eight years employment, age plus service has to equal 75 years, or 30 years of employment at any age. The age at which they start working for the county will determine which of the three the employee will get to first.
Wallace continued to say that on average county employees are about 47 years of age and average length of service is ten years. Additionally, the average account balance is $32,000 per employee. People usually retire at about age 63 and the average annual benefit is about $16,000 per year. Wallace explained that this plan is designed to give adequate retirement to career employees. He stated that “Most financial advisors say that when you are working you want to put away enough money to replace somewhere in the neighborhood of 70-100% of your final salary to sustain you in retirement.”
After the retirement benefits plan had been discussed, the commissioners moved on to the proposed tax rate for 2017. Judge Wayne McDaniel said that this item had to come back up because he had realized that a record vote was not taken. The vote to remain at .5762 was unanimous. Public hearings will also have to be set since it is higher than the effective tax rate which is .5713. They decided to set the public hearings for August 22 and August 29, both at 9:30 a.m.
Judge McDaniel stated that “My hope is that on September 12 we adopt the budget for fiscal year 2017. We would have a public hearing that morning which we will set at our next meeting. If everybody agrees we would have a public meeting that morning on the 12th at 9 a.m. on the budget and then any changes made on the budget between then and now would be discussed at our regular meeting. Hopefully we will adopt the 2017 budget at that meeting.”