The first budget hearing for the Angelina County Fiscal Year 2020 highlighted the potential need for an increase in revenue to cover county basics on Friday.
Angelina County Attorney Cary Kirby, Pct. 1 Constable Tom Selman, Sheriff Greg Sanches, Jail Warden Stacy Fredieu, District Attorney Joe Martin and landfill manager Chuck Brooks pleaded their cases for their proposed budgets with the Angelina County commissioners.
Each office requested more money to be used on space, equipment or personnel if the coming year’s budget would allow, with the exception of the landfill.
“This is what happens when neglect has taken place over an extended period of years,” Pct. 4 Commissioner Bobby Cheshire said.
Kirby, the first to present, asked for $1,183,156 for the county attorney’s office ,which is an additional $163,665 as compared to the FY 2019 budget. This included requests for more money to cover an increase in subscription costs and to enable Kirby and his team to pursue more than base level, yearly training, he said.
He also detailed the increasing workload stemming from open records requests, civil cases, elected officials contracts and employment litigation as a reason to hire a new full-time administrative assistant. In previous years he has had a part-time assistant that was paid with hot check fines, he said. Those funds are continually decreasing, he said, so he’d like to request enough to cover a full-time position if county revenue allows.
“If the funds are available, we need a position,” he said.
He pointed out that his office may have to take on Child Protective Service cases as well, which would be an increase in workload, warranting more staff.
He also asked for pay increases for his staff. He said his administrative staff does the same work as the district attorney’s staff but are paid less. He also asked for the increase in wages for the assistant attorneys, not so they’re equal to the DA’s assistant attorneys because the work is different, but still an increase.
Martin asked for $1,200,057 for the DA’s office, which is an additional $234,902 as compared to the FY 2019 budget.
“I know what the commissioners court is facing,” he said. “I know you’re not going to have enough money for what everyone wants. What I would encourage you to look at is funding those critical needs that have to be addressed … criminal justice is on the front line of what you do and what we do to protect our citizens… and I think those requests made in that regard are what you have to look at.”
He is requesting they allow him to hire one more investigator, prosecutor, give the county’s portion for a grant for a victim’s assistance coordinator and additional space to run the office.
He said they handle a lot of CPS cases and that work requires a lot of pre-trial examinations and investigation.
“Our caseload is a lot greater than that most other, if not all other counties in our regional CPS area,” he said. “And most of the other counties have a full-time attorney for CPS cases.”
Angelina County does not, the CPS workload is split between Martin and another prosecutor, he said.
Their other prosecutors also are backed up years on cases that need to be indicted and this presents a problem for keeping felons off the street, he said. Stephanie Stroud, a new assistant DA, also spoke up for this, saying she had cases she was trying to get finished from 2017 and hadn’t been able to get to many from 2018, let alone 2019.
She also made the point that at the trial for the murder of Jermaine Gray, she and her partner, John Peralta, had to do the investigation of the case themselves. This is uncommon and is work typically delegated to the investigators on staff, she said. However, the one investigator on staff already had a full workload.
Martin said they need the space to be able to hire anyone before they do hire a new investigator and prosecutor. They spoke with the commissioners about the options for using the law library or cutting Martin’s office in half to make room for more staff.
Sanches asked for $4,842,274 for the sheriff’s office, which is an additional $247,013 as compared to the FY 2019 budget. Of that amount, $59,333 would be used on a new deputy position and certificate pay.
Sanches made the point that his department was incapable of retaining or hiring new employees because the current pay levels are not competitive with the area schools. He said they pay deputies worse than what they pay workers for county commissioners. So part of his request also includes pay raises for employees.
“The pay is killing us, guys,” Sanches told commissioners. “When you can’t compete with public schools that’s just embarrassing.”
They are also asking for a new vehicle and a larger fuel and maintenance budget.
Selman asked for $116,719 for the Pct. 1 Constable’s office, which is an additional $24,473 as compared to the FY 2019 budget. He said his precinct continues to grow, and with it, his workload. He wants to hire on a part-time assistant who can fill in the places that he may miss because of the heavy workload, he said.
“I feel like my precinct has grown quite a bit … and I have nearly half the population of the county in my precinct,” Selman said.
His request would cover the part time position for about 400 hours of work, he said. He did the math and said he would pay the person whatever was needed to keep the person at about $11,974 in total.
Fredieu asked for $4,044,293 for the county jail, which is an additional $74,831 as compared to the FY 2019 budget. This includes $7,543 for longevity and certificate pay.
They specifically requested funding for a new transportation truck. They realized they would save more money by sending out one of their own transportation people to other states, she said. So they want to invest in a truck that will be sturdy and comfortable enough to handle a lot of miles, she said.
The truck also will be used to transport team members to occasional training.
They also need money to cover the increased cost in inmate medical expenses. The medical contract they’ve signed will increase again this year and they have to cover the costs.
The jail also has managed to save money on feeding the inmates by having a garden on the jail property that is maintained by inmates and by buying food on special deals from their vendor.
Brooks asked for $4,558,967 for the landfill, which is $2,181,857 less as compared to the FY 2019 budget.
The landfill does not get any tax revenue but is supported by fees for dumping trash. The budget was raised for FY 2019 because they needed to build new cells to hold trash.
Brooks did discuss with the commissioners the potential need to increase the fee to dump trash at the landfill and that will be brought up at the next commissioners court meeting.