Cameron County Commissioners Court balances budget without having to raise taxes

The Cameron County Commissioners Court is holding a regular meeting Monday, July 18, 2022 at the Dancy Building. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

The Cameron County Commissioners Court was able to balance the budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year on Tuesday without having to raise taxes, but increased department heads sought for their employees and new positions were not included in the budget.

The $103,150,485 budget includes increases in the cost of living for county employees. Employees earning less than $70,000 will receive a 3% raise, those earning between $70,000 and $100,000 will receive a 2% raise, and those earning more than $100,000 will receive a 1% raise. The minimum wage the county pays its employees will increase to $11 an hour, from $10 previously.

The budget also includes the addition of two positions, one for Veterans Assistance Officer and the other for Building Maintenance Custodian.

“We moved the numbers around to make it work,” Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr said Wednesday.

Unfreezing jailer positions, deputy positions and two captain positions in the Cameron Sheriff’s Department were not included, but the jailer positions are budgeted for the coming year, Trevino said, because the commander and the major of the penitentiary system had drawn up plans on how to solve the problems within the ministry.

“They gave us some ideas on how they were going to solve things like overtime, the meal problem as far as the commissioner was concerned and so we felt they were working with us so we had to try to work with them because they were trying to resolve the issues that we raised,” Trevino said.

The captain and deputy positions will primarily be frozen because neither Sheriff Eric Garza nor his staff have provided the Court of Commissioners with options on how to fund those positions, Trevino said. “Until we have an idea that there is a change in regards to federal inmate status, that’s what we had to do. Our hands were tied. »

The court of commissioners said the county lost about $2.6 million in federal funding when federal inmates were removed from county jails.

For weeks, the Court of Commissioners held budget workshops to figure out how to balance the budget while facing a $5.2 million deficit. The shortfall was attributed to declining court revenue, rising gasoline costs, insurance costs, and loss of funding for out-of-county inmates who had been housed in the county jail.

Several department heads pleaded with the Court of Commissioners for raises for their staff, citing that many were leaving the county for other well-paying jobs.

Trevino Jr. said that due to the loss of funding the county suffered due to its inability to house federal inmates and $1 million in overtime, the county had to pay employees of the sheriff’s department , the county was unable to grant the raises requested by the department heads.

“Unfortunately this year it just wasn’t possible, it wasn’t doable and we told everyone from the start that obviously we were in a tough spot with our overall budget. .. I think if we hadn’t had these issues with the loss of federal inmates, overtime and commissioner issues, I think we would have been looking at a very, very different budget process,” Trevino said.

In the meantime, a grievance hearing will be held on Thursday to two elected officials ask for an increase in their salaries approximately $5,000 each. The grievances were filed by Justices of the Peace Sallie Gonzalez and Juan Mendoza.

In their letters to Trevino Jr., both cite their long service to the county, with Gonzalez stating she has 47 years of service while Mendoza cites her 39+ years of service.

Trevino said if the grievance committee votes in favor of the salary increases, the county will have to add it to the budget.

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