At a workshop meeting of the Commissioners Court of Blanco County on July 10, commissioners heard budget requests and appeals from elected officials, department heads, judicial departments, and other organizations and agencies that receive funds from Blanco County.
Volunteer and community groups were the first to be heard. Most of these groups asked to be funded at the same level as the current year, as projected county income feels the pinch created by the recession. These groups included Community Action, The Texas Star Program, and the Highland Lakes Family Crisis Center.
Brad Taylor of the Texas Star Program said that they offer family crisis intervention, parenting skills, drug prevention, and child safety, and that monies received from the County are used primarily for training.
The Community Action organization recently moved its operations from Blanco to Johnson City and wants to arrange for transportation services.
Texas Wildlife and Damage Control pays the salary of a trapper who is needed to keep predators in check and asked for an increase over the current budget.
Also requesting increased funds were the Johnson City and Blanco libraries.
“For each dollar invested in the Johnson City Library,” said representatives, “we return four dollars in services. We do a lot more than move books around.” They cited the extensive use of volunteers in the library and on the board of directors, grants that have provided free computers and internet services, a partnership with LBJ State Park, and outreach programs in science, math, reading and literature.
Representatives from the Blanco Library and Friends of Blanco Library requested additional funds due to a $5,000 cut in State funding. “We average 100 patrons a day who take advantage not only of the books but who also take art classes, reading classes and receive job training. Some come in for the air conditioning that they can’t afford at home.”
Also heard were representatives of the Blanco County Economic Development Corporation.
There was a mixed bag of requests from County department heads, some asking for budgets to remain the same and some asking for slight increases, while others indicated they could get along with decreased funding.
Those heard included the office of the County Judge (same), the County Clerk (reduction), Elections (increase), County Attorney (increase due to telephone service costs), Tax Assessor Collector (decrease), Treasurer (increase), County Auditor (decrease), Healthcare (unknown pending federal legislation), County Extension Services (same), Emergency Management (decrease), and the District Attorney’s office (decrease).
The majority of the Blanco County community services requested the same or slightly increased budgets over those currently in place. These included the Historical Commission, Blanco-Pedernales Ground Water Conservation District, and the annual Trash Off.
Discussions in regard to nondepartmental costs included, but were not limited to, utilities, insurance costs, painting, maintenance costs, janitorial costs, copy machines, internet services, postage, courthouse restoration, video tower leasing, surplus property sales, contract labor, independent auditors, the law library, septic tank permits, water availability services, legal fees, 911 CAPCOG grant costs, recycling, part-time help, inspection costs, and tires for the skid steer.
The Justice of the Peace for Precinct One asked for a slight increase in funding, while Judge Guthrie indicated that the Justice of the Peace for Precinct Four was currently “in the red” due to some funds that had been advanced to him and had not been repaid.
Major increases in funding were requested by County Sheriff Morgan. He indicated the need for a new deputy position in order to provide better around-the-clock patrol coverage. He is requesting an increase in salaries “because I don’t want to be a training ground for other police departments.” He said that a 10% salary increase would “put us in the ballpark with other law enforcement agencies.” The Chief Deputy said, “We’re short-handed. On the weekends our population doubles.”
Sheriff Morgan indicated that comp time and overtime from January 1 through June 30 amounted to 386 hours of comp time and 430 hours of overtime, mostly at the Law Enforcement Center. The Deputies were showing 600 hours of comp time and 154.5 hours of overtime. The numbers were also high for the dispatchers.
The Sheriff said, “We’ve advertised our twenty beds at the jail to surrounding counties but, although there’s interest, we’ve received no response. They’re probably waiting for their budget approvals. We have a 2006 patrol car with 400,000 miles on it. It is not uncommon for our cars to have in excess of 142,000 miles.” He went on to say, “I can live with the present budget but I would like a raise for our employees.”
Judge Guthrie said that he used actual expenditures and projected them out to come up with budget figures but that tax rolls are not yet available from the appraisal district. He said some employees will get a 7% increase in salaries due to longevity while others, newer employees, will see a 2% increase.
“When an ox is in the ditch,” said Judge Guthrie, “we all have to get together to pull it out.”
The budget hearings continued into the afternoon but the reporter for Blanco County News was unable to attend.
At their regular meeting, also on July 10, the Commissioners approved authorization to rescind the paving bid for Precinct Four that had been awarded at the June 26 Commissioners Court meeting by Commissioner Granberg to Ruvalcabas Paving. The bid was then awarded to the actual low bidder, who was Big Tex Paving. Authorization was granted to advertise for bids for paving projects in Precinct Two.
Commissioner Granberg requested that the Rocking J Ranch subdivision sewage treatment facilities be re-permitted. This would allow for increased amount of flow and would locate the facility away from highway 281 to nearer the present maintenance facility. Paul A. Bizier, Vice President of Rancho del Lago Water and Wastewater, said the present facility can treat 18,000 gallons per week. The new on-site facility will be able to treat 5,000 gallons per day. Dale Yates, consulting manager for Rancho del Lago Water and Wastewater, and Kermit Roeder, County Health Inspector, also gave input. The treated water will be used for irrigation. Authorization was granted subject to further review.
A proclamation was signed by the members of Commissioners Court recognizing the community of Cypress Mill for its efforts in purchasing water storage for fire suppression. It reads:
“Whereas, Blanco County realizes that we are a remote community; and Whereas, the Volunteer Fire Departments in our area are dedicated in protecting our communities; and Whereas, the need for available water during the wildfire season is a necessity; and
“Whereas, it is appropriate to recognize the value and accomplishments of the Community of Cypress Mill and the St. Luke’s Church in Cypress Mill in obtaining a 60,000 gallon water storage system available for the use of fire suppression in the remote areas of Cypress Mill, Texas; now
“Therefore be it resolved; That, on behalf of Blanco County, the Blanco County Commissioners Court, recognizes the accomplishment and supports the efforts of the Community of Cypress Mill and the St. Luke’s Church in Cypress Mill in their water storage project.”
Judge Guthrie was authorized to purchase a water softener system for the Jail/Law Enforcement Center due to the high mineral content in the Johnson City water causing corrosion in the plumbing. An electronic valve is sticking due to lime and mineral build-up. A water softener system was considered at the time of construction but, due to the cost, it could not be installed at that time. Newman Water Services (of Pipe Creek) will be awarded the contract. Their price includes everything, including the use of copper, which is compatible with the plumbing in place. The actual low bidder would use PVC pipe.
Commissioners chose to take no action regarding a consideration to implement a burn ban.