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Commissioners vote pay raises for elected officials

May 28, 2018 GMT

Citing they have bypassed themselves for pay raises in the past, Liberty County commissioners voted Tuesday, May 22, to a 10 percent increase in salaries for commissioners and county judge.

The new rate for 2019 will increase the salaries for commissioners to $74,880, up from the current salary of of $68,073. The county judge’s new salary is $69,551, up from $63,228 in 2018.

County Judge Jay Knight made the proposal, but commissioners led the discussion and changed proposed numbers from Knight.

In 2015, there was a 5 percent pay raise across the board for county employees except the county judge, commissioners and the county attorney, who received nothing.

“At that time, we had a county attorney leaving and a new one coming in. We’re simply playing a little catchup,” the judge said.

Elected officials took a pay raise in 2009, but the new court in 2015 opted to pass. With rising gas prices, commissioners decided to help all elected officials offset the additional travel expenses and a boost in their salary.

For most elected officials, who took a 5 percent hike in 2015, except for the sheriff who received a 2.5 percent bump, they will receive an additional five percent hike in their paychecks. Only the commissioners and the judge are taking the 5 percent they didn’t take in 2015 and a 5 percent bump for the 2019 budget.

Commissioner Leon Wilson looked at the recommended boost for the travel allowance and didn’t think it was enough and asked for an additional $500 per month, and Commissioner Bruce Karbowski agreed.

“I know the budget is tight and we’re all looking for money for our precincts, but as many miles as Greg [Arthur], Leon and Boo [Reaves] and I put on our trucks and wear and tear on our vehicles, I think it’s justified,” Karbowski said.

The $500 per month increase would have brought commissioners, the judge and the sheriff up to $21,840 per year for travel allowance, but Karbowski spoke up again.

“I would be willing to settle for an even $20,000,” the commissioner said, and the others agreed, including the sheriff.

Commissioners estimated they put as much as 30,000-plus miles on their vehicles each year.

The court also boosted the constable’s pay by 5 percent and originally a $3,000 increase in their travel allowance, but later boosted it from a proposed $17,520 for their gas and maintenance stipend to an even $20,000. Each of the commissioners said any constable’s deputy that pulled into their yard needing gas would receive it and not be charged.

“It comes straight out of our budget,” Wilson said.

But elected officials must take the expenses of gas and maintenance directly out of their own pockets or violate law.

The 2019 budget will include the 10 percent salary increases for the judge, county attorney, and all four commissioners. The sheriff, county clerk, district clerk, county treasurer, tax-assessor collector, juvenile judge, all justices of the peace and constables received a 5 percent boost.

None of the elected officials received a change in their cell phone allowance. Only the county clerk, district clerk, county treasurer, tax-assessor collector, juvenile judge, county judge and county attorney do not receive cell phone allowances.

JPs will receive a $10,000 per year travel allowance while the county judge, sheriff, commissioners and constables will have a $20,000 per year travel allowance.

The commissioners’ vote was unanimous.

dtaylor@hcnonline.com