Commissioners’ Court approves budget, salary increases
The Commissioners’ Court Meeting on Monday, Sept. 20 started of with a moment of silence for Reggie Garrett, Jr. and for his family. The traditional prayer and Pledge of Allegiance followed.
The elected officials salaries and the proposed budget for Orange County for the Fiscal Year 2010/2011 was the hot-button issue at the Commissioners’ Court. Precinct 1 Commissioner David Dubose was absent from the meeting and was, in fact, in the hospital having some tests run.
The first item on the agenda was the setting of the salaries, expenses and other allowances for elected county and precinct officials. Precinct 3 Commissioner John Dubose made a motion to approve this item. The other commissioners remained silent so County Judge Carl Thibodeaux said “I’m tired of playing games,” and seconded the motion.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Beamon Minton stood firm and voted against this item as he did in the meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 7. Precinct 2 Commissioner Owen Burton voted against it, as well, claiming that his constituents were unhappy with anyone getting a twenty percent raise. However, in the Sept. 7, Commissioner David Dubose never asked for a twenty percent raise, he asked for a $20,000 raise for the sheriff and a $20,000 raise for the county judge. The $13,000 raise that was agreed upon for Sheriff Keith Merritt was under twenty percent of his yearly salary.
Commissioner John Dubose and County Judge Thibodeaux voted for the item tying the vote 2-2.
“Ya’ll must be brain-dead,” Judge Thibodeaux said. “You can’t vote ‘no’ on salaries that have already been approved by the court. I’ve never had that happen before.”
Both Doug Manning, Assistant County Attorney, and Judge Thibodeaux reminded the court that under Section 152.013 of the Local Government Code, the Commissioners’ Court is required by state legislature to set these salaries.
Manning went on to explain that the commissioners have already adopted a budget that included the salary increases. “To turn around and not pay them would mean that you are taxing the public for expenditures that you don’t intend to spend.”
Thibodeaux decided to recess the meeting and reconvene when Commissioner David Dubose was able to join the court at 5 p.m.
When the court reconvened, it was down to business. Commissioner Burton made a motion to keep the salaries as they are under the current pay matrix. That motion failed 2-3.
Commissioner John Dubose then made a motion to set the salary increases as they were published in the newspapers.
Minton wanted to go on record to say that “I’ve been opposed to the pay matrix being tampered with. It’s nothing personal, it’s nothing political. I believe we need to leave it alone. So I have to vote against it. It’s what my conscience tells me to do.”
The motion passed 3-2.
The budget for the Fiscal Year 2010/2011 will increase by $22,000.
$12,000 will be allotted to Dr. Vicotria Gordon and Dr. Calvin Parker for an increase for their jail contract.
The additional $10,000 will go towards a contract with NET Data. Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Derry Dunn explained that NET Data will upload citations into its Justice Courts software system. It will cost $2.00 for each case filed through the “iticket” system. Precinct 2 Justice of Peace Derry Dunn explained that 5,023 traffic citations were issued in 2009. To help cover the cost of this new program, the court cost for traffic citations will increase by $2.
The court agreed to renew it’s yearly contract with the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.