Commissioners set budget hearing

$18 million budget open to public comment Aug. 24

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The Austin County commissioners get to work on the proposed budget during a hearing Monday, Aug. 10, during a session of commissioners court. Pictured from the left are Chip Reed, Randy Reichardt, Judge Tim Lapham, Bobby Rinn, and Mark Lamp.

The Austin County commissioners spent a lot of time Monday morning doing a lot of adding and subtracting as they went over next year’s budget before they hold a public hearing on it at their next meeting.

The commissioners voted to set the budget hearing for Aug. 24 at 9 a.m. at the courthouse. The meeting, like the last few, will be a hybrid of in-person and online attendance. There is limited seating at the meetings, and it is provided as an online option.

On Monday, County Clerk Carrie Gregor made her case to have a new deputy clerk position added to her office.

“I definitely see a need and a benefit for adding a position to my office,” she said.

She said the person would primarily be responsible for working on collection of old fines and fees.

“Our outstanding collections are over $1million,” Gregor said.

She said the position would “probably pay for itself.”

“It’s not hard to do, you just need the manpower to do it,” Gregor said.

Commissioner Mark Lamp wanted to know why she didn’t turn them over to a collection agency. She said she could, but the agency would still have to be paid and that she preferred to keep the work in-house.

Commissioner Randy Reichardt asked if she had room for another deputy. She said she has an open desk at the moment and will have more space once her office moves to the new justice center now under construction.

“In 25 years this is the first time I’ve asked for one (deputy clerk),” Gregor noted.

County Judge Tim Lapham estimated that the salary and benefits for a new clerk would add $36,000 to the budget.

The commissioners instructed Lapham to add the position to the budget. Gregor then informed the court that she wants to begin doing restoration and preservation work on old files dating back to the 1800s. She said she has a fund of $347,635 set aside for the project, which has been estimated to cost $2 million to complete.

“We’ll work on it in increments,” she said, noting that she wants to preserve the oldest and most deteriorated documents first.

Lapham made a request of his own to transfer the salary of a vacant part-time position in his office to create a development coordinator position. That person would be in charge of coordinating all of the development requests coming into the county.

“I took the money from a part-time position to increase another,” Lapham said.

That will also be considered in the budget.

Election Official Kim Rinn informed the commissioners that she will need $32,000 more up front to run the coordinated election between the county, school districts, cities and other entities holding elections on Nov. 3. She said some of it will be reimbursed by the other entities holding elections, but that she will need to pay the election workers up front first.

EMS Director Walter Morrow came to the commissioners with a budget decrease. He said he needs to decrease about $55,000 in salaries from the budget he presented because some of his employees will not become certified paramedics like he anticipated and thus will not qualify for raises.

After doing some quick math, Lapham estimated that the bottom line on the budget will go from being $2,337 in the red from last year to $12,000 in the black.

“That’s the best news I’ve heard all day,” Reichardt said.

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