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THIRD TIME’S A CHARM?
“WE NEED TO PUT A CAP; WE NEED TO STOP GRADING OURSELVES EVERY SINGLE YEAR,”
A week after learning a salary grade study conducted by a third-party contractor decreased salaries, Frio County Commissioners’ revisited the study for a third time and have proposed increases to several elected officials.
According to Frio County Human Resource Director Ramiro Trevino, he along with County Auditor Crystal Marquez revisited the salary grades after the commissioners’ meeting that was held on Friday, August 18.
“We went back to the table and reviewed elected and appointed officials,” Trevino said during the Friday, August 25 meeting. “Crystal and I have sat down for days trying to figure it out.”
The duo analyzed seven counties that included Bosque, Burleson, Deaf Smith, Andrews, Young, Lee and Eastland counties with similar population sizes to determine an average salary.
The counties analyzed are located in central and east Texas.
The study, conducted by the county, put all elected and appointed county officials well above the average except for the county attorney who reflected a $4,000 decrease in salary.
“Right now our current pay is above average,” Pct. 4 Commissioner Danny Cano said. “We need to put a cap; we need to stop grading ourselves every single year. It is going to get to a point where it is not going to be about the county, it is going to be about the money. At the end of the day, we are elected officials and we need to stop this.”
Trevino and Marquez’ salary study reflected commissioner’s salaries $10,000 above the seven-county average; the county clerk and county treasurer $8,000; district clerk receiving $14,000 more than the average; auditor, $6,000; tax assessor/collector $16,000; and the county judge $20,000 above the other counties in similar population size.
“If everyone was bumped up to the minimum,” the human resource director said. “The price tag would be one-hundred and fifteen thousand dollars. That is not with the fringes, that is without the fringes.”
Marquez noted that all full-time and part-time county employees, including elected officials, are slated to receive a one-time cost of living incentive in December that will come with a $281,000 price tag.
“So these numbers,” Pct. 2 Comm. Mario Martinez said. “Is this you all or Dr. Werling?”
Marquez said that the numbers presented by Trevino were from the study the duo had conducted after learning Dr. Werling was unable to regrade.
“We talked about looking at the commissioners, the county clerk and the district clerk but then we felt we could do it all across the board,” the auditor said. “You do not see the constables, because [Dr. Werling] went off the pay grade at the sheriff’s office. The constables are graded between a deputy and a corporal.”
The auditor noted that the clerks, district and county, and the tax assessor/collector were graded appropriately; the justice of peace minimum salary should be bumped to a pay grade nine; the auditor should be a 16, the county attorney should be graded at minimum paygrade of 18; and the county judge’s salary was appropriate at a paygrade 13.
“The minimum for human resource [director] is a seventeen,” the auditor said. “Normally, if you think the highest elected official, it is the county judge, so it is hard to see that thirteen there. But it is up to the court how we move forward.”
“I also am in the same mind that the county judge should be the highest paid elected official,” Pct. 3 Comm. Raul Carrizales said.
According to records filed at the auditor’s office, the county judge receives a $25,000 supplement from Texas Association of Counties and $4,800 from the juvenile board.
“I am okay where I am at with the thirteen,” Frio County Judge Rochelle Camacho said. “The only thing I ask is we give consideration to what Dr. Werling said about restructuring the pay grade for the future so we can move forward. It is up to you all so we fix it moving forward.”
Marquez noted that she had misquoted Trevino’s salary and his minimum should be $77,000 annually.
“Seventy-seven thousand dollars was his first salary, and then it came down to seventy-five thousand dollars,” the auditor said. “Apparently it was when Dr. Werling modified it and it only affected him. So, I wanted to let the court know that it was wrong. I cannot even explain this salary structure but when he converted to hourly from salary, it changed his. Dr. Werling said he could move the auditor and attorney to a fifteen, those are numbers he threw out, saying that he put the judge at an eighteen.”
Martinez reiterated his position on following the independent salary grade study and noted the county’s financial position will allow for the increases. However, the next fiscal year the county could face a drop in revenue from ad-valorem taxes.
“This year we were able to afford this because of the increase of the property taxes but next year Governor Abbott is decreasing property values by forty percent,” the commissioner said. “Everyone in here has been revisited once, twice, three times over. We need a policy put in place for guidance.”
“Honestly, all these studies, there should only be an increase for years of service,” Comm. Carrizales said. “Everything else has already been graded.”
Commissioners are slated to approve the final budget on September 12.