County commissioners ponder pay increases, budget

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

Roosevelt County Commissioners favor a 5-percent pay increase for most county employees as part of the 2006-2007 budget.

Salaries for elected officials are still up for debate.
“The bottom line actually looks better this year than it has in the last four years,” County Administrator Charlene Hardin said. “Gross receipts and property taxes are up.”

After hearing brief budget requests from each department, commissioners suggested salary increases be kept at 5 percent for non-elected county employees, with the exception of the sheriff’s department. Most departments requested that amount for salary increases, although jail administrator Jesse Luera had raises for his employees figured at 3 percent because his department received a midyear adjustment salary last year.

The sheriff’s department requested an approximate 3.5 percent increase, which is equivalent to one step in that department’s pay grade. But the sheriff’s budget also requested a switch to a 20-year retirement plan instead of the current 25-year plan, which would carry additional costs. Commissioners denied a similar request last year.

There was uncertainty in the county clerk’s budget, where clerk Janet Collins asked to have election costs, including $25,000 for printing of ballots, left in the budget, despite the state Legislature’s intention to fund a new law requiring a switch to paper ballots.

“I think my election budget is more than we need, but I’m leaving it the same ’cause you can’t be sure,” Collins said.
Hardin told commissioners there would a big increase in fuel costs.

Commissioners and elected officials also had a spirited discussion about pay increases. The state Legislature has given the OK to increase salaries of newly elected officials by as much as 15 percent.

Treasurer Royene Tivis suggested commissioners consider 12 percent.

“You need to remember going into this: These people don’t get a raise for four years.”

County Treasuer Nancy Belcher asked if commissioners had ever considered the top percentage allowed.

“Not in this county,” Commissioner David Sanders replied.
According to Hardin, the total budget should be just under $8 million.

Commissioners set a budget hearing and special meeting for 8 a.m. Thursday to finalize things and adopt a budget resolution.

In other matters commissioners:

• Agreed to work out a quit claim deed with Charles Bennett on land around property where he has a caliche pit south of Portales, with the county retaining an easement onto land where it has a caliche pit.

Bennett said he has had problems with illegal dumping on his property and sought a swap in order to control access onto the property to stop dumping and allow him to graze the property for weed control.

• Approved the erection of a microwave dish on the courthouse for the 9th Judicial District’s Child Support office.

• Approved the city of Portales’ construction of an expanded animal shelter on county land.

• Approved a joint-powers agreement allowing Curry County road crews to be used on road projects in Roosevelt County.

• Approved a lease with TeamBuilders Inc. for use of the Bonem Home as a residential group shelter/treatment facility for youth.

• Approved the recommendation of Ronny Fouts as fiscal year 2006 auditor.

• Renewed an agreement for phone services for the detention facility.