Thursday, October 2, 2008





County budget looks to future
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

ATHENS–Henderson County Commissioners hesitated to close the book on a 30-day effort to finalize next year’s $36 million budget.
But when all 33 amendments had been crafted and accepted, there wasn’t anything left to do but sign off on it.
That they did Monday morning, 4-1, with Precinct 3 Commissioner Ronny Lawrence opposed.
Lawrence consistently opposed the way pay raises were allocated, leaving out lowly clerks and equipment operators/laborers, and sometimes providing hefty increases to those making the most, such as judges and lawyers (most of the hikes are mandated by state law).
“Everyone who got a raise also has a county vehicle,” Lawrence pointed out. “I’d like to see us come up with a policy that would take this into consideration.”
“I think overall, it’s a good budget. No one’s going to get everything they wanted, but it’s progressive and attacks long-term problems,” County Judge David Holstein said.
“We’ve cut the tax rate, provided to pay the bills. It includes planning for the future,” Holstein added. “Overall it’s something we can be proud of.”
The county looks forward to constructing a new Records Management Building, pending the outcome of the facilities management study being graciously paid for by the Ginger Murchison Foundation.
Toward that effort, the fiscal year (FY) 2009 budget includes $2.7 million for capital improvements, which also covers roof repairs and renovations.
A key item in the FY ’09 budget is the establishment of a position pay scale, and determining pay raises in order to retain and attract the best and brightest to county service.
The salaries of elected officials are also broken out within the salary category, so anyone reading the budget can easily see how much office holders are compensated for their services.
Including the officials’ salaries was one of the last five amendments, and very important to the commissioners.
“I was happy with it. Of course, that was before I noticed my salary wasn’t included in it,” Lawrence chuckled.
That change didn’t increase the Road and Bridge budgets of each precinct, it just lessened the amount of road building material funds by $60,000 for a net change of zero.
“I could have built a lot of roads with it,” Lawrence said.
Holstein said the amended budget would be ready for public viewing at the county website
In addition to setting pay scales and positions, commissioners approved the FY ’09 budget by its seven categories.
Assistant auditor Debra Flowers explained if the commissioners approved the budget by its categories – salaries, benefits, supplies public support, debt service, and operations and other services, the number of budget amendments coming before them weekly would greatly decrease.
“When we present amendments, you’ll get just the ones that matter,” she said. “And, it allows department heads to manage their areas more effectively.”
Once the FY ’09 budget goes into effect Jan. 1, amendments will be presented only when funds are to be transferred from one category to another, she explained.
Each precinct commissioner has about $1.2 million to pay salaries (including their own, $60,000 annually) and pay for road building material, fuel, capital outlay (vehicle purchases) fuel and office supplies.
This comes directly from the percentage of the tax rate allotted to them – the smallest of all other percentages, Precinct 1 Joe Hall pointed out.
Commissioners adopted the maximum tax rate as the set tax rate – 47.6016 cents per $100 worth of property value.
Even though voters approved a three-cent increase in the tax rate in order to expand the jail to nearly double its capacity, the need to increase the tax rate never materialized. In fact, this year’s rate represents a 3/8ths of a penny reduction from last year.
Within the budget, the district attorney received funding for two full-time investigators with vehicles, a $200,000 bump in the DA’s budget over last year.
The full-time warrant officer in the County Attorney’s office was renamed an investigator, with a corresponding payscale increase.
Pay for court enforcement clerks (three positions) was bumped up $1,320 to be equal to other collection clerks in the Hot Check division.
Justice of the Peace (JP) precincts 2 and 3 both lost one part-time position, with the cut portion amounting to $9,962, which was moved into juvenile operations to help pay for court-appointed attorneys requested by Child Protective Services.
A minor adjustment in the JP 4 postage line item was made to account for a previous mistake in ordering too much postage last year.

WCC offers reward
Shooter damages Lively tower
Special to The Monitor

TOOL – The West Cedar Creek Municipal Utility District is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who shot a hole in the water tower on Farm-to-Market 2613 in the Lively community the evening of Sept. 23.
The shot caused a large amount of damage to the tower and a great loss of water.
Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Department at (972) 932-4337 or the West Cedar Creek MUD at (903) 432-3704.
The identity of informants will be protected.

MHS drumline places in Plano
Monitor Staff Reports
MABANK–The Mabank High School Drumline returned from a “Best of the Best” competition among Northeast Texas’ finest percussionist with a first place in its Class A category.
The Plano competition was held in Clark Stadium Saturday.
The 17-member drumline, with freshman through senior classmen, had a difficult time slot, following a large Class AAA performance.
Notwithstanding, the local youngsters placed fourth out of 14 drumlines.
The groups were judged and critiqued only on the execution of their show music, proving a close contest, with only ½ point separating the drumlines who captured first through third place.
Local supporters got a peek at the competition program the night before at Panther Stadium.
The drumline treated the crowd to two selections before performing “An American Salute,” their competition piece. Besides a great rendition, which included a flute, it ended on a high note with the raising of the “Stars and Stripes” in tribute.
The supportive crowd roared in appreciation.
This performance was dedicated to the drumline graduating seniors Jared Autrey and Casey Wood.
All music was arranged by Steve Vento, Jeff Johnson and Lamar Burkhalter.
The drumline thanks the community for the attendance at their preview show, their parents for their unyielding support, and last, but not least, their percussion director, Jeff Johnson.
Band directors for Mabank are Jeff Dubose, Denise Kennedy, Scott Kennedy and Kenn Mcsperitt.
The Mabank drumline is under student leadership of drumline captain Juan Chavez.
An opportunity to see some of the best marching bands in Northeast Texas approaches.
The 17th annual Cedar Creek Mrching Festival is set for Saturday, Oct. 11, at Panther Stadium. The all-day, free event gets started at 9 a.m. and continues until 7 p.m.
The Mabank Marching Band will put on a exhibition at the close of the festival.

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