Commissioners hold more budget talks

Cost-of-living adjustments for county employees are discussed

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
The Ellis County Historic Courthouse.

Ellis County Commissioners on Tuesday did some more fine-tuning with the county’s proposed fiscal year 2021-2022 budget to get it ready for launch on Oct. 1.

Among the most important items was the discussion of a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, for all county employees. The court last year did not provide a COLA for employees because of uncertainty over the COVID-19 pandemic. The four commissioners agreed that a COLA is needed, but differed slightly on the amount.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Lane Grayson, who presided over the meeting in the absence of Judge Todd Little, said the county’s most valuable resource is its people who provide services like public safety, roads and emergency management. Grayson later added that every percent of COLA represents a $286,000 expenditure, and the county has $37 million in additional revenue to spend.

“We did nothing last year to take care of the most valuable resource that we have,” Grayson said. “I want that to be made up in this budget cycle.”

In the face of the pandemic, Ellis County saw an 11-percent increase in revenue, and Grayson said the county is projecting an 8-percent revenue rise in this year’s budget. Therefore, Grayson proposed a 6-percent COLA for all county employees — 3 percent for each of the last two years — as well as a step plan for sheriff’s deputies.

Grayson said the county needs to be more competitive in pay with neighboring urban counties in order to retain its best employees.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Paul Perry said he was reluctant to go with a 6-percent COLA at this time, suggesting instead a 5-percent COLA now and perhaps a higher one in coming years. Perry recommended a review and overhaul of the budget process, including a review of line items to see where funds could be redirected.

Perry also urged the spending of federally-provided American Recovery Plan funds while they are still available.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Randy Stinson objected to adding a 5-percent COLA on top of a revised schedule that gives most elected officials a pay raise.

The court will meet again on Tuesday in its regular bi-district session, possibly to finalize the budget and tax rate.

Other items

• Sheriff Brad Norman presented the Lifesaving Award for sheriff’s office deputies Tracy Hightower and Dustin Saulter, and Certificates of Merit for deputies Manny Valdez, Steven Tiner and Jeff Holland Jr. for their lifesaving actions following an attempted suicide on June 29.

• A one-time variance was denied for a 4-acre lot on the west side of Carolyn Road in Italy for not meeting the minimum road frontage requirement. The property fell nine feet short, county director of development Alberto Mares said.

• The purchase of a Bomag pneumatic tire roller from R.B. Everett and Company was approved in the amount of $82.559 using the BuyBoard Cooperative Contract.

• A contract with Lookup Properties, Inc. for flooring improvements for the Sheriff’s Office was approved in the amount of $114,099. County purchasing agent E.J. Harbin said the project will include removal of the existing flooring and the installation of 10,052 square feet of commercial vinyl plank flooring and 4-inch black coat base, along with 3,755 square feet of commercial vinyl plank flooring and 37.27 square yards of carpet tile.

• The installation of new carpet at the Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 facility was awarded to Glenn’s Warehouse Carpets Inc. in the amount of $9,630.

• Armored car service for the county was discussed. County assessor/collector Richard Rozier said there have been several problems with armored car service providers across the board. Action to extend the present contract or consider an alternative will be on Tuesday’s regular court agenda.

• A bid was awarded to Today Movers, Inc. for the moving of general and election equipment.

• A $5,000 funding request by the Ellis County Historical Commission was approved.

• Commissioners approved an indigent care affiliation agreement with Methodist Hospitals of Dallas as it relates to Methodist Midlothian Medical Center. Grayson said all three hospitals in Ellis County are now affiliated.

• The payroll and holiday schedule for fiscal year 2021-2022 was approved.