County proposes pay increases

A five percent salary increase for some elected officials is part of the Fiscal Year 2020 $274 million budget proposed by Hays County.

Elected officials, excluding county commissioners and County Judge Ruben Becerra, could receive receive a five-percent raise. Hays County is also proposing a one-percent merit raise and a two-percent cost of living increase for its employees. Law enforcement officers could see a 2.25% pay increase per the voter-approved Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Elected officials who stand to receive a pay bump include all Hays County Constables and Justices of the Peace.

Meanwhile, Hays County plans to merge the operation budgets of all three County Court at Law offices into one starting in FY 2020.

Vickie Dorsett, Hays County first assistant auditor, said that the County Court at Law judges determined it would “be more effective” to combine all three court operating budgets under one department. That decision was made after the creation of the County Court at Law No. 3 office in January.

Hays County has budgeted $463,000 in FY 2020 for the courts at law, with County Court at Law Judge Robert Updegrove slated to make $173,000, while County Court at Law No. 2 Judge Chris Johnson and No. 3 Judge Tacie Marie Zelhart will make $145,000 each.

The budget also calls for an increase in the overall staff salary for the Hays County Judge’s office. The County Judge’s office will spend roughly $100,119 for staff salaries excluding the judge in FY 2020, an increase from the $66,747 in the adopted FY2019 budget. Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra is expected to make $88,506, the same amount budgeted from last fiscal year.

Dorsett said part of the reason for the County Judge staff salary increases is because two positions in the judge’s office were vacant for three months in 2018. Hays County Chief of Staff Alex Villalobos and Administrative Assistant Anita Collins were sworn in in January, three months after county leaders approved the FY19 budget.

Dorsett said Becerra got approval to hire both positions at the 25th percentile of their respective salary ranges.

Villalobos will make roughly $61,700, while Collins will make $38,352 in FY2020.

Meanwhile, officials are proposing an ad valorem tax rate roughly a full cent lower than the current 43.37 cents per $100 valuation.

Other expenses include $1.8 million for personnel and operational expenses for the expansion of the Hays County Jail and new Public Safety Building that’s scheduled to open in 2020.

County commissioners also set aside roughly $718,000 to expand Hays County’s flood warning system, as well as $750,000 for future flood mitigation projects.

The proposed ad valorem property valuations are expected to add close to $4 million to the county’s tax rolls next year.

Hays County Tuesday held the first of two public meetings on the tax rate, with the second taking place Sept. 10. Officials will hold a public hearing on the budget Sept. 17.

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