JEFFERSON — The Marion County Commissioners Court began its budget workshop season for the new fiscal year, entertaining the need for an extra full-time employee in the sheriff’s office to cut down on the increased overtime and to retain employees.
“There’s a lot of overtime, and we’re going to try to compensate that and hire a jailer/dispatcher,” Marion County Judge Leward LaFleur said.
Despite the estimated possible $300,000 deficit, LaFleur said he was optimistic about the welfare of the county.
“I’ve said it for a long time, and I’ll say it again, right here on the record, Marion County is in fine shape for the shape she’s in,” LaFleur said. “There are very few counties in this part of Texas that have zero debts.”
Pct. 2 Commissioner Joe McKnight expressed disapproval that commissioners were given wish lists by department heads, rather than having the supervisors appear to address their wants.
“We’ve got a want list here. If you’re on the want list, you need to be here and tell us something,” McKnight said.
McKnight said because insurance has gone up for the county, he won’t approve salary increases. About 60 employees are on the county’s health insurance, and officials expect premiums to increase about 5.5 percent.
“We furnish insurance; there’s your pay raise,” McKnight said.
Jail positionThe sheriff’s office has two jailers and one jailer/dispatcher per shift.
“We are looking to add another full-time jailer,” LaFleur said.
LaFleur said Sheriff David McKnight had told him it’s difficult to find employees to work in a hostile environment such as a jail for part-time pay.
“People in West Texas are laid off from the oilfield and come over to work for county jails and then leave to return to the oilfield (when business picks back up), and we don’t have invested employees,” he said.
Joe McKnight said he is willing to agree to the full-time jail employee.
“It’s something we’re going to have to do to keep from getting in trouble,” he said. “I don’t know if it’ll save us from overtime. If it does, we’re in good shape.”
County Treasurer Terrie Neuville agreed that something has to be done.
“Right now, you’ve got dispatchers working 12-hour shifts, several days a week,” Neuville said. “We’ve had some that had 60 hours overtime and paid them.”
“When you start working people like that, they start getting tired; they start getting tired, they start making mistakes. And you don’t want mistakes in the jail,” Neuville said.
Neuville convinced McKnight to see her need to increase her part-time assistant’s pay.
“You have a part-time person that’s doing a full-time job,” she said, asking for an increase of $4,839.
“Sometimes I feel like y’all don’t realize what my office does,” Neuville said, noting she does more than just payroll.
County Auditor Shanna Solomon said her department benefits from the treasurer assistant’s help.
McKnight said he won’t make any promises but would consider it.
“I would rather sit here and talk about something like that that’s justified,” he said.