County adopts bigger budget, lower tax rate
By ALBERTO TOMAS HALPERN
PRESIDIO COUNTY – After a grueling hours-long meeting Tuesday that had members of the public dozing off, Presidio County officials passed a new budget and property tax rate.
Elected public servants approved a budget for the next fiscal year that is $209,921 larger than last year’s budget. The total maintenance and operations funds in the new budget total $3,302,212.
“That additional revenue that made up the increase was from an increased tax base,” County Judge Paul Hunt said. The growth in the tax base is attributed largely to the silver mine in Shafter, but other factors also played a role.
In addition, county employees will see an across the board, three percent salary raise.
The new tax rate adopted by county officials is 64.22 cents per $100 valuation, which is down four cents from the current tax rate.
Various amendments to the proposed budget were taken up for discussion during the all-day meeting.
“The biggest single amendment had to do with adjustments to the jail budget,” said Hunt. At issue was whether to fund a new maintenance position at the jail. Hunt and some commissioners suggested having a dual jailer/maintenance employee.
Sheriff Danny Dominguez and Chief Deputy Joel Nuñez weren’t keen on the dual role.
“Jailers have their daily job. They can’t do maintenance too,” Nuñez said.
“My concern is for the long-term viability of the jail,” County Attorney John Fowlkes said during the discussion.
“They’re not wanting to do plumbing (and other maintenance jobs),” Dominguez said, “Their job description is to be a jailer.”
Current regulations require one jailer for every 48 inmates.
“If there are 97 inmates, I need two jailers on the floor and one in the office,” Dominguez explained this week.
“There’s a reason you have so many jailers on duty,” Nuñez said at the meeting, referring to the security needs of inmates and jail employees.
Referring to an employee with dual maintenance/jailer duties, Fowlkes said adding levity to the discussion, “If he’s (fixing) the roof, he’ll keep (inmates) from going out the top.” The audience laughed for the only time during the meeting.
Ultimately officials funded a full-time maintenance position at the jail, in addition to the existing 15 jailer positions.
“The main thing decided was to keep attention to maintenance,” Hunt said after the meeting.
Maintenance issues were key to this budget Hunt said, as county officials hope to avoid major maintenance disasters that could put the county in the red.
“The theme of this budget was very similar to last year’s. It was the first time in a long, long time where the county was consciously stepping up to the need for maintenance in so many different areas,” said Hunt, who admitted that “the unusual nature” of restarting the jail last year did hamper those efforts to a certain extent. “This year’s budget really reflects the renewal of that commitment and hopefully we’ll see results this coming year.”
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