As with most counties, ours is in the process of preparing next year’s budget. I don’t know about the rest of you, but this is a very stressful time for me. We find out every year who needs a budget increase, which just happens to be whomever we are speaking with at the time. We also find out who should be required to hold the line, which just happens to be everyone else. This scenario is repeated over and over as we meet and discuss budget proposals.
One of the most difficult decisions we face each year is whether or not we can increase salaries. If we can consider an increase, we then determine how it should be granted. We normally give increases in one of two ways: either in a fixed amount to all employees, which favors the lower-salaried employee, or in a percentage amount, which favors the highest-salaried employee. I have always felt that in order to keep a correct variance between both supervisors and lower-scaled employees, both of these methods are needed in different years based on current salaries. I know that many of you also give merit raises, which should encourage all employees to increase their output and be more productive; however, in a small county I have found that it has the opposite effect, causing other employees to become jealous and dissatisfied and causing problems with morale. The smaller the county, the smaller the employee pool from which to draw. We have great employees all of whom are dedicated to their positions; we just do not have many of them and have few applicants when a vacancy occurs. This is just one example of how each county must make decisions based on their individual county and circumstances. It is also an example of how all counties are not created equal, which is something we all have trouble explaining to state and federal officials. What works well in the Panhandle may not work at all in the forests of East Texas, and what is desirable in a large county may be disastrous in a small rural county. To those of you who have done this before, you know what I mean, and to those of you who are new, good luck and get ready…you are about to embark on some difficult decisions. Not enough money and too many needs.
Speaking of budgets, it sounds like there is some positive news concerning the state budget, but many deep cuts still remain that will adversely affect counties. At the time of this writing there is good movement on possible improvements to oil and gas valuations. My prayer is that by the time this article is printed, we will have resolution to this problem. I also hope that we have moved closer to the passage of HJR56/SJR17 which will prohibit unfunded mandates. This issue will have tremendous impact on county ability to provide local services more efficiently and protect our local taxpayers.
This is also the time of year when the regional conferences are being held. We had a great West Texas conference in Lubbock in April, and I look forward to seeing each of you at the North & East Texas conference in Nacogdoches May 15-18, and the South Texas conference June 6-9 in McAllen. I would also like to encourage all of you to plan on attending our state conference in Odessa Oct. 3-6. We are all working hard to provide the highest quality education and the very best entertainment and activities possible. During these economic times we must all work together to educate ourselves the very best we can so we can better serve our counties.
Remember, county government is the most efficient government and the most responsive because it is the closest to the people.