Ector County Commissioners are hoping to give county employees raises during the next budget cycle due to a slight increase in tax revenue.
Commissioners said this was their hope during a special meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday discussing the budget for the 2018-2019 budget cycle.
County Judge Ron Eckert announced at the beginning of the meeting that property values are up about 4.2 percent, bringing an increase of around 2 million dollars in tax revenue, not quite as much as commissioners were hoping.
“Sometimes it takes awhile even if you’re in a boom cycle for your valuations to catch up to the boom,” Eckert said. “I wish I could report that the percentage of increase was higher and that we were gonna have more tax dollars than we have, but we don’t.”
Commissioners went down the line expressing their hopes for the next budget cycle, the common factor among the three being raises for county employees. Commissioners Eddy Shelton and Dale Childers were absent from the meeting due to family matters.
“We’ve been 2 years without any raises for employees in the county and it’s been a tough time,” Eckert said. “We made adjustments to keep expenditures down; one of those adjustments was not having raises for employees.”
Several of the adjustments made included new policies and procedures, budget cuts to various departments, as well as downsizing and not replacing equipment, Eckert said.
County employees, outside of judges, did receive a cost of living increase last year, but Eckert said that still wasn’t a raise.
Childers had given Eckert a list of his priorities for the next budget cycles, also saying employees needed a raise, and said he would like to see the county’s computer infrastructure modernized and updated.
“I think we’ve all seen recently the effect of not having a phone system can have on the courthouse,” Eckert said.
The courthouse’s phone system crashed and had to be replaced entirely a couple of months ago, preventing people from being able to call the courthouse for a number of weeks. Eckert said Childers wants to prevent something like this happening with the county’s computer system.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Greg Simmons echoed Eckert’s wishes to give employees raises.
“At some point, you’ve got to take care of the employees, and that is our focus for this year,” Simmons said.
Simmons reminded department heads at the meeting that it will still be a tight budget for the year, and to only ask for what is absolutely necessary to keep their department intact and running.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Armando Rodriguez said he would make sure to convince other commissioners to consider as good of a raise as possible for employees.
“If y’all don’t do the work, who else is going to be doing it?” Rodriguez said. “A county cannot run without the employees.”
Eckert said department requests should be in the context of making the county fiscally sound, not just for the next budget cycle, but for the future in preparing for the eventual bust.
“We’ve learned that you have to make adjustments for the bust that’s coming,” Eckert said. “Because everybody knows a bust will come.”
The 2018-2019 budget cycle will begin Oct. 1.