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Pay cut proposal draws debate

By DAVID TEWES
Aug. 25, 2010 at 3:25 a.m.


Officials' PayThe 2010 pay for elected officials ranges from $140,000 for the district judges and district attorney to $22,907 for the lowest paid constables.

Reaction has been mixed to a plan to cut in the pay for all Victoria County elected officials by $1,000 in 2011.

"I have no problems with it, especially this year when everybody is cutting back," Constable Richard Castillo said.

He said he's talked with the other three constables and they all agree with the proposal, especially if it means rank-and-file employees don't lose their jobs.

Justice of the Peace Henry Welfel said he doesn't like the idea, although it won't deal him a crippling blow.

"It doesn't help," he said. "You've got to make some adjustments as far as making payments on things."

The commissioners court went into closed session Monday and when it emerged there was a consensus to cut $1,000 off the pay of the elected officials.

That won't be official until the court votes to adopt the budget. The final vote will be on Sept. 20.

County Judge Don Pozzi said the cuts would save about $30,000, including fringe benefits, in the 2011 budget year. The money would be used to help hire personnel next year to help out various departments.

He said it wasn't an easy decision.

"We do the best job we can and we will continue to do that," he said. "There will always be those critics out there and that's fine."

The proposed budget is good and bad news for a couple of the constables. Two are now making $33,112 a year and that will be cut to $32,112 in 2011.

The other two are making $22,907 a year. The proposed budget would have raised their pay to $33,112 to put them on the same level as the other constables, but that number would also be cut $1,000.

Pozzi said the pay for the constables had been set at different levels years ago.

"Some were doing more work than others," he said. "It is my understanding they are all out there doing what they can now."

That's why the court decided there should no difference in their pay, he said.

Tommy Tijerina, who is running against Welfel for the Precinct 4 post in November, said if he's elected he will cut the pay for that position even more. He suggested $37,297, which is the same level it was at in 2006, until the economy improves.

"If we all work together, we will succeed," Tijerina said. "There is always something you can do and this is what I will do."

Welfel questioned why the court decided to cut the pay of all elected officials by the same amount when there's a wide range in how much they make.

"What happened to equity?" asked Welfel, who makes $45,000 a year. "A thousand dollars out of a constable's pay versus a thousand dollars out of the county judge's pay - the percentage is vastly different."

Justice of the Peace Robert Whitaker, who makes $70,000 a year, raised the same question.

"I could live with a little tightening of my belt," he said. "The impact to me personally would not be as great as it would be to the other JPs."

He said it would be more equitable to base the cuts on a percentage of what the elected officials make.

Castillo had a different take.

"I don't have a problem," he said. "It doesn't bother me."

The constables have no plans to cut back on the services they were elected to do, he said.

Pozzi said elected officials serve at the public's will and the court felt they should make sacrifices like the other county employees. He said for the most part the elected positions are considered full-time jobs.

"We're not privy to all the information as to what other income these individuals may have," he said. "I think we can assume that in some of the lower-level paying jobs, that's not the total family income."

They could have other jobs on the side or they may have spouses who also work, he said.

Pozzi said the court's plan is not intended to harm anyone. It instead tries to deal with a tight budget, while making money available for personnel.

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