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County discusses budget

Posted: Saturday, September 14, 2019 12:00 am

Commissioners discussed budget provisions on “comp time,” and VFDs and their insurance and recent behavior of some of their volunteers, as part of the Sept. 9 agenda.

‘General Provisions’ FY 2019-20

Kerr County Commissioners discussed at length, but did not vote on, a multi-page document headed “General Provisions FY 2019-20,” which was headed “limitations on the appropriations made in the budget.”

The discussion mainly concerned “compensatory time balances;” how long such balances can be carried forward; and that department heads may compel employees to take any part of their “comp time” for budgetary reasons at the department head’s approval and not unduly disrupting the department’s operation.

At the center of Monday’s discussion was Sheriff Rusty Hierholzer, and how the county policies don’t work the same way for law enforcement officers, jailers, and community supervision and corrections officers who are required to work in excess of 40 hours per week.

Those personnel receive comp time in lieu of payment, or comp time at the rate of 1.5 hours for each hour worked more than 171 hours within the 28-day work period.

Hierholzer said the first problem is, SO employees work on most holidays.

There was long discussion about balancing comp time (off duty) when law enforcement officers work 12-hour shifts or more, with payments for that comp time if it’s not taken within the required time. There are maximum comp time hours allowed; and exceeding that means the extra hours must be paid at one and a half times the employee’s rate on the next pay cycle.

Comp time balances are “required to be depleted prior to using vacation leave,” or “burned off” as Hierholzer said.

Hierholzer and the commissioners finally agreed that after Sept. 30, the end of this fiscal year, such comp time is to be paid out, first, in the new fiscal year and taken by the employees after that step.

VFD volunteers and

Workman’s Comp

The last part of the meeting was a discussion among commissioners and the volunteer fire department officers attending (not from all nine of them). Two agenda items concerned “policies and procedures relating to the Kerr County VFDs,” and the other marked for executive session regarding contracts with the VFDs. Commissioners didn’t go into closed session, though.

Commissioner Don Harris reported no “ethics code” resulted from the last KARFA meeting of fire chiefs; and since that meeting, Kelly said, there have been “developments.”

Kelly and Commissioner Jonathan Letz recently attended a Texas Association of Counties meeting, and from discussions with TAC officials about insurance coverage and workman’s compensation, were told there were problems with that coverage for VFD volunteers.

Kelly brought up “more uniform standards” and “reasonable expectations of best practices” and said this discussion was part of problems, recently discussed, with the Ingram and Turtle Creek VFDs.

Past actions by some members of those two departments have had “unintended consequences” now; and TAC had decided their workman’s comp insurance doesn’t apply to VFDs. Also, TAC had wrong and very low numbers of VFD volunteers listed (20 instead of 220).

Kelly quickly added this insurance question is being answered and Kerr’s VFDs will continue to have that insurance through Dec. 31 with the county paying the larger premium of $42,000 more to TAC.

In that three-month window, the county and VFDs can find other insurance, but not from TAC, unless a VFD is also part of an Emergency Services District as two of them are.

Kelly said TAC also agreed to pay any claims made between Oct. 1, 2018, and Sept. 30, 2019.

In Kelly’s words, “our ‘good kids’ feel like they’re stinging because of the actions of the other two departments” which he said included a few VFD volunteers who are being “oppositional and obstinate.”

Asked by volunteers attending Monday’s meeting what the solution is after Dec. 31, Kelly said they are working on it, and Texas Forest Service grants are one option. They also asked who would enforce the proposed Code of Ethics, and how.

Kelly said if that Code is approved by a vote by commissioners and becomes a court order attached to the VFDs’ county contracts, “We’ll talk to you about it.”

Hierholzer joined in to say the county needs to look at fire dispatching for VFDs, and he can stop that by not dispatching their calls. He added, “They have access to the SO radio system and I won’t have criminals having access to our system.”

He said TAC also somehow didn’t know about the Kerr County First Responder Program, supervised by the City of Kerrville Fire Department.

Center Point’s VFD chief said each VFD’s budget is different, and some are too small to have money for required testing of hoses and other equipment, or buy $40,000 heavy-duty pickup trucks or new fire trucks costing up to $750,000.

Veterans Day plans

Gary Noller and Byron Warren of the Veterans Services advisory board reported on the work of the county’s Veterans Services Officers, and the current plans for a Veterans Day observance this fall.

He said as this year is the 74th anniversary of the end of World War II, those veterans are now “very seasoned” and the county’s VSO officers have been helping some of them to connect with local resources.

Noller said one has passed her accreditation training, while the other is working on her training.

Warren said advisory board members have been meeting with the Noon Rotary Club to “plan a Veterans Day celebration, not a parade, but a holiday breakfast featuring Breakfast Tacos.

This will be held at 8 a.m. on Nov. 8 at the Hill Country Veterans Center.

In addition, the Rotary group has formed a committee to plan for a 2020 celebration, and so far they are considering using one of the parks.

“Now civilians are planning for the veterans’ celebration, a big step forward, in our thinking,” he said.

Kerr 9-1-1 budget

Commissioners voted 5-0 to approve the Kerr 9-1-1 budget for fiscal year 2020, presented by Director Mark Del Toro.

Del Toro said the estimated net income is $450,000 based on an overall decrease of 1.75 percent from their 2019 income projection, attributed to projected decreases in all classes of telephone service.

Kerr 9-1-1 will keep the service fee of $.75 per month for all classes of service.

ESD Board #1

Tim Huchton was appointed to the Emergency Services District #1 Board by the commissioners; and immediately after that vote, Judge Kelly swore Huchton into that office.

County, Lateral Roads tax rates

Commissioners offered a public hearing on the Kerr County tax rate and the Lateral Roads tax rate; and no one asked to speak.

Elected officials’ salaries

Commissioners voted 4-0 with Don Harris abstaining, to set salaries, expenses and other allowances of the elected officials in county government, as previously published in another newspaper.

Local Bloodmobile stop

The Kerr County Courthouse parking lot will be used as a one-day stop for the Bloodmobile from the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center from San Antonio on Oct. 24, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.