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District attorney offers to take larger pay cut

By DAVID TEWES
Aug. 30, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.

Tyler

On behalf of petsThe commissioners court also received a request from two members of Pets Are Worth Saving to keep the animal shelter open later during the week.

Jerry McCaskill and Cindy Schneider said extending the shelter's hours from 5 to 7 p.m. might get more pets adopted before they are euthanized.

The request comes after the court agreed to open the shelter half a day on Saturdays through most of the summer. That resulted in an average of five visitors a day on Saturdays and the court decided it couldn't justify continuing the Saturday hours.

An elected official said Monday he'd be willing to take a larger pay cut than proposed by the Victoria County Commissioners Court if it helps the lesser paid officials.

"Cut my pay more, if you would, before you cut the constables," said Stephen Tyler, the district attorney. "I'd hate to see them suffer egregiously."

County Judge Don Pozzi said the court won't adopt the budget and property tax rate until Sept. 20.

"Any elected official can give up all or part of their salary," Pozzi said. "I commend any elected official that would do that."

He said all they need to do is file an affidavit with the county treasurer.

The commissioners court has proposed cutting the pay of all county elected officials by $1,000 to help balance the 2011 budget. That includes members of the commissioners court.

Pozzi has 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.

Tyler and the district judges are at the top of the pay scale for elected officials, making $140,000 in 2010. At the bottom are the constables, who will be paid $32,112 in 2011 after the pay cut.

Tyler said he was speaking only for himself and not the judges.

He also said that if the purpose of the cut is to show leadership and sacrifice, maybe the cuts should be based on a percentage of what the officials make instead of across the board.

"I know you have been doing a lot of thinking on the budget," Tyler said. "I know it's difficult."

Pozzi said the court considered cutting the pay by a percentage, as well as other options. But he said the court made its decision based on such factors as fines, fees and outside income.

County Commissioner Gary Burns later called on the court to go into executive session to discuss the pay cut. While he was the only one who asked to meet behind closed doors, Pozzi said it only takes one request.

Burns had little to say afterward.

"No comment," he said. "The budget is not adopted."

He later commended Tyler for his comments and said the court is not trying to micro-manage any department.

"Nothing in this budget is final," he said. "Any of that can be changed."

Some elected officials said they were surprised and upset to have to find out about the proposed pay cut when contacted by the Advocate or by reading about it in the newspaper.

Pozzi said he can understand their reaction and publicly apologized for not personally letting them know. "It's just simply an oversight."

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