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Victoria County peace justice protests personnel cut

By DAVID TEWES
Sept. 13, 2010 at 4:13 a.m.


What's next?

The commissioners court is slated to adopt the budget and property tax rate Monday.

That vote will be during the court's 10 a.m. meeting in the courthouse at 115 N. Bridge St.

A justice of the peace told the Victoria County Commissioners Court Monday it would be a mistake to eliminate one of his clerk positions in the upcoming budget.

"Our office serves some of the most innocent and defenseless members of our community," said Robert Whitaker, Precinct 3 justice of the peace. "Please do not turn your back on them or balance the budget on their backs."

He said during a public hearing on the budget that his office is responsible for everything from issuing arrest warrants to emergency protective orders. Cutting the clerk position would eliminate one-fourth of the staff that keeps the office running efficiently.

County Judge Don Pozzi said that's one of 19 positions the court decided to eliminate in a difficult move to come up with a balanced budget for 2011.

"Judge Whitaker, I resent the fact that you suggest we're turning our back on anyone when it comes to the safety and the care and welfare of this community," he said. "We turn our backs on no one."

Pozzi said the court understands what all four justices of the peace do in their offices. The court looks at the records and it knows how productive the offices are, he said.

The other judges have only two full-time clerks each and there is little difference in the fines and collections brought in by the peace justices, he said.

Other offices will lose personnel as well, including law enforcement, Pozzi said.

"Those offices continue to do the same outstanding job for the citizens of this county, regardless of what we have to do to the budget," he said. "I'm sure that you will make every effort to attempt to do the same thing."

During budget work sessions earlier this summer, the court reached a consensus to cut the pay of all elected officials by $1,000. Commissioner Gary Burns said he's heard from constituents upset the court didn't cut using a percentage so the lower paid officials, such as the constables, aren't affected as much as the higher paid officials.

"We've got constables working full time that are not even bringing home what a deputy makes, besides having to furnish their own car," Burns said.

He said the court can't change the salaries since they have already been publish. But he called on the court to add $500 to the constables' car allowances.

"I can't see taking the same amount of money away from them as you do a district judge," Burn said.

Pozzi said he agrees that all of constables work hard. But he said he's not going to discuss any further the reasons he feels like this needs to be done.

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