Commissioners received several requests for salary increases

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

With nearly $200,000 added by the Jim Wells County Sheriff's Department to the Jim Wells County proposed budget last week, along with salary concerns voiced by several Justices of the Peace and a possible five percent across the board cost of living increase, county commissioners will consider once again the budget on Tuesday.

In addition, commissioners will take a record vote after considering the proposed county tax rate. The meeting begins at 11 a.m.

The current effective tax rate is $0.6580, which is the rate necessary to collect the same amount of tax revenue as last year.

The current form of the proposed budget uses the effective rate as its basis, but commissioners will consider Tuesday whether an increase is in order to pay for the budget requests received last week. Last year's tax rate was $0.7058.

Sheriff Oscar Lopez said last week the need for an increase in salary for deputies, correctional officers and communications staff was caused by continued turnover in his department to other area law enforcement agencies, including the Alice Police Department.

For employees in those three occupations, Lopez proposed a budget increase of $163,000 in salaries overall, which would come close to $200,000 after fringe benefits are considered for the increased salaries, County Auditor Eladio Gonzalez estimated at the meeting.

A more accurate number will be included in the proposed budget presented on Tuesday morning.

In Lopez's proposal, correctional officers' salaries would rise from $18,903 to $22,500.

For communication personnel, Lopez asked that salaries be raised from $16,480 to $20,000 and his deputies would increase from the starting salary of $22,500 to $26,000.

Lopez said the department puts in nearly $3,000 worth of training into its officers, but they often leave to other departments.

He said APD begins their officers at nearly $10,000 higher than the county, and his department can't compete.

Pct. 4 Justice of the peace Sylvia Johnson is currently in the grievance committee process, seeking a $5,000 increase to her salary.

Her public hearing before the committee will be on Wednesday. Her current proposed salary is $27,895.

Pct. 5 JP 5 Luz Paiz stated her disagreement with her current salary, and requested an increase of $5,000, to be comparable to the salary of Pct. 6 JP Jose Rodriguez.

Paiz's proposed salary for 2008 is $42,466, while Rodriguez's is $47,481.

Both Paiz and Rodriguez, along with their formal JP duties, hold truancy court for the county.

Rodriguez said both offices do bring in comparable amounts of revenue to the county.