Here are my notes from the meeting held in Marfa on 9/28 at 9 AM. I will scan and publish an updated final draft of the Presidio County FY 2016 budget pages to this blog within the next 24 hours. Following that I'll be writing an analysis of the budget, all its parts, and where I think things are headed for the County at this point.
This was an interesting meeting on many levels, and I believe there was much more personality displayed by officials than is reflected in this account I wrote.
Incidentally, I was informed this morning by Judge Guevara that the City of Presidio gave its employees a three percent raise. The County's direct contribution to the City of Presidio's cash flow exceeds 122,500 dollars in the FY 2016 county budget passed yesterday. Presidio County employees did not receive a raise and over four hundred fifteen thousand dollars to fund this budget is coming from reserve funds. This is not sustainable.
Notes from the meeting:
Presidio County Commissioners Court Meeting 9/28/2015
Eva Gonzales, taxpayer and owner of Block R in East Heights, no services
Talked to grant manager, wants to get burnt to get city services, road access, etc.
References statute for Counties to provide roads on private property. Advocates for same.
Carlos Nieto: on behalf of City of Presidio. Brings up 567,682.67 in County tax revenues from citizens of Presidio. Talks about value of County services. Are we getting a good value? Accountability...
Travel time to Marfa difficult.
County Clerk services not accessible, hard for elderly and poor.
Feels it is an obligation for County to provide Clerk services at Annex in Presidio.
Thanks court for support of first responders in Presidio. Lastly, it is important we have access to services. Transparency is important.
Sheriff Danny Dominguez: understands the County has financial problems. References jail account, wants commissioners to know that he is willing to help, wants County to know.
Constable Coker: Steve Coker. Thanks commissioners for willingness to consider courthouse security in Presidio annex. Thinks it's fair, equitable.
Commissioners and Judge announcements: none from judge, none from commissioners. Item 6 on agenda is moved up since 4H students need to get back to school.
Item 6- Jessie Lea Schneider and students: some gifts to commissioners and proclamation of national 4H week. October 10th 4 H day. Planting tree on courthouse lawn. Picture with commissioners
Judge says that shortfall is worse, no money budgeted in workman's comp and vacation payout. Needs to be done, money will be spent regardless.
Aranda says Katie found some money in an account that has not been used. Judge asks what it is. Katie says it was some unused funds in M&O and it amounts to about $15,000.
Whites says he is very disappointed in this budget, criticizes cuts in the courthouse operations and still county has to go into reserves, cities of Marfa and Presidio EMS services contributions should be reduced and used for county purposes.
Worthy causes but there is not enough money to go around. Wants to reduce to last year's level. Not popular, he acknowledges.
Aranda says that he knows county does not offer overtime but comp time instead. Employees need to use their comp time, the county has no money to compensate for comp time hours. Dept heads need to be responsible for keeping comp time hours down.
Aranda says cutting emergency services is hard, we don't have money, it's tough.
Judge remains commissioners that no money has been budgeted for comp time or vacation time. Courthouse annex underfunded, needs major repairs, has mold, etc.
Sam Cobos says leeks are repaired around walls, needs roof repairs in courthouse back building.
Building needs to be painted as well.
Says budget is insufficient, only at $9000. Will pull out carpets and leave plain concrete floors. New doors to keep out rain will be more like storm doors. Roof bolt washers are rotted out, leaking.
Ceiling tiles need to be replaced.
Food bank building still not complete., more work to do.
Restrooms in food bank and not working. AC units in main building still not working properly all the time.
Aranda asks about money costs for work. Sam wants $13,000, currently at $6000. Judge wants to move $10,000 from ESD research, COG will help, not needed.
Corrected number is $5000, judge wants mold remediation to be a priority, doesn't want anyone to get sick in that building.
Hernandez asks for clarification of budget lines.
Sam says it is underfunded, commissioners agree it's important. Sam says total repairs will come to probably more that $15,000. Will do it in stages, do what we can for progress.
Vasquez advocates for making this a priority. White says money has to come from EMS contribtions to pay for County services. Money spent this year has to be budgeted since we have an auditor. Wants to reduce Presidio and Marfa EMS budgets to EMS. Says that is the last place that has money. Vasquez asks about services, coverage levels. Judge says they have only upped Presidio EMS, not Marfa. No data from City of Presidio. City of Marfa goes to Presidio, will not go that far anymore if funding is not equitable. Judge says city of Marfa has backed up Presidio over 73 times. Marfa is not asking for more $. Where is data from Presidio?
Judge wants equitable funding for both agencies.white says that there is not any money there. Need to start on ESD immediately.
We cannot afford to help them, want to but can't.
Aranda says he understands. It's been hard this year as we found so many inaccuracies from the 2015 budget and have to deal with it. City of Presidio has been asking for help for many years and we have helped, but one day they are going to make us service EMS if we don't help fund them.
Judge talks ant hoe every in county budget has zero dollars for contingencies, emergency funding needs, unpredictable expenses.
Hernandez says that county judge budget and clerks budget went up, as did many departments. We did not really cut, we have exceeded last year in most departments. We have not really cut budget in most places, we have increased.
Biggest concern is that we may be overstuffed for the size of the County. County has 89 employees, too many possibly. We need to have a hiring freeze for the next ten years and then maybe we can catch up.
We need to be cutting bigger numbers, five thousand here and there won't do it. Aranda wants to clear up funding on comp and vacation time.
Next year we will be getting more money, it will be better but this yer we need to do what we have to. Leave budget the way it is.
Judge wants to go over very budget page.
$174,000 budget deficit.
Katie says it is $140,000
White says that one agenda item is trash disposal for Shafter, at about $5000/yr. no point on passing the resolution without money.
Aranda says that little things we did this year added a lot cumulatively.
Vision coverage for employees is a new benefit, nice but it's an extra expense.
Advocates for leaving this budget exactly how it is, deal with extra monies next year. Judge wants extra funding for Annex repairs.
White says that vision coverage etc is a benefit in lieu of a raise for employees.
$5000 extra for courthouse annex proposed.
Add ten thousand for vacation and workman's comp. Katie says workman's comp is budgeted but you can't really budget for it. Comp time payments add up, cap for vacation is around fifteen days plus one week, essentially 120 hours. Comp time capped at 70 hours.
Law enforcement is capped at 240 hours comp time.
Hernandez says we should not be paying for any excess over that but we still have people who are over the cap. Aranda says this has been an issue.
Hernandez wants to know why ex allow people to go over the cap.
Katie says we have a shortage of law enforcement employees, people have to cover for hours.
Talk of spending the "extra" $15,000. Has already been deducted from deficit total. Add it back in and deficit is $155,000
Judge wants to know from every dept head if they have concerns for their budgets.
Calls on Gracie
Sheriff says he wishes he didn't have a cut but he can deal with it.
Around the room most folks are relatively OK.
Clerk is not happy about commissioners helping county internally before helping other budgets outside of County. Hernandez says they added to Clerk's budget and she shouldn't complain. Clerk bites back a bit and says that extra funding was mandated. Aranda says that cities need the money,
Nieto says that County needs to help stakeholders of whole County. Clerk says she doesn't have a big problem helping the cities but help County first. White bites back at Nieto. County is broke. Nieto raises his voice. Back and forth. Judge calls to order.
County Attorney and Judge clarify that their increases in budget come from state supplemental funding.
Hernandez still says we are overstuffed. He will do some analysis.
Clerk brings up that OMB is a new office, new expense. Says she is not overstuffed, we are busy and definitely not overstaffed.
Aranda says that next year we need to start with a bare bones budget and not add a lot. Wants to leave it alone this year. county is growing, we will move ahead. Wants to move forward with approving budget.
Only changes thus far are cutting ESD to zero and moving money to County Annex, that is the only budget amendment proposed at this point.
Hernandez says that balancing this budget by using reserves costs us What? 440,131.00 says Katie Sanchez
Monies come from jail and M&O reserves.
Fowlkes bring up that inmate count is down,me need to plan for fewer, we have no control over number went from Feds. This got us into trouble before; this is a big gamble. Patty says these reserves in jail fund are there now, not projected reserves.
Patty Roach takes the podium to clarify presentation on reserves funding.
Hernandez brings up jail AC situation.
Fowlkes says that that jail can start losing money fast if inmate count is down below about 88. Gracie says that if we down to below 40 w are in trouble.
Patty says that we are basing jail revenue on 90 prisoners. Fowlkes says this is dangerous since we have 67 in there today. Keep a close eye on this.
Hernandez says that he is not too worried about inmate count.
Whites says he is still leery of taking this money out of reserves. Asks Gracie about numbers. Gracie says we have been low for the last 2 1/2 months. Katie says this is a yearly trend. Hernandez wants to know how to keep the numbers stable (inmate count). Fowlkes says projected revenue for next year is average of 88 per day, says this could be different and could really hurt County if jail starts losing money instead of making money.
Fowlkes says Feds are aware that jail survival depends on their prisoners and want to keep the numbers up; they need this jail.
Vasquez wants to know if US Marshals use Brewster County jail much. No, says Gracie. Fowlkes says that more immigrants cross and get cohabit in cooler months.
Aranda repeats that next year is the yer to make changes, this year ex need to just move forward with it as is.
Patty Roach confirms that nearly $450,000 coming out of reserves; last year was $350,000.
Hernandez says the County has over expanded.
Frances Garcia wants to know which offices Hernandez thinks are overstaffed.
Hernandez asks "where are the 85 employees?"
Jail has 25, says Katie.
Virgie Pallarez recommends dissolving the unit system, going back to old system of precinct maintenance. Aranda says they have put too much effort into making improvements to stop now. Virgie says the unit system is for much bigger counties.
White and Hernandez agree that we are providing better service overall.
Judge says she agrees with Carlos Nieto that clerks going to Presidio would be great, Virgie says she can send someone sometimes, but records are here in Marfa.
Hernandez wants to know where the $200,000 in reduced capital outlay for jail goes. Patty Roach always that it will go back into jail fund reserves.
Hernandez says that the jail fund will be funding the cities from now on. Who is going to tell them no? White says he will. $32,500 extra budgeted to go to the City of Presidio this year. Hernandez says that the County has hired two more people this year for courthouse security this year.
Constables agree that they understand it is a trial basis. Hernandez wants to know if that's what they're going to say in 2 years when the money is out. Coker says they will understand.
Talk about vision and airlift benefit for employees - great for employees since no raise this year.
Hernandez says we're still $140,000 down, what do we do.
Vasquez says that next year we need to replenish reserves, go for this budget this year. We can't cut any further without handicapping services.
Hernandez says the increases year to year are too great. Next year's budget is it starts with this budget will already be over budgeted.
Judge reminds commissioners that the numbers re accurate for the first time.
Hernandez says it's sad that even with this deficit budget departments are cut to the bone. Concerned for next year. Pipeline will help but it won't do us any good if every yer. Go up 300-400 thousand dollars. Judge reminds that employees have not had a raise coming up on three years.
"Anything else?" Asks Judge.
White says he is still not comfortable with deficit budget.
Hernandez is unhappy bat cathouse security; " we're having two babies."
Aranda asks dept heads to try to not spend the money, conserve resources. Hernandez says there is no room, we have already cut departments to the bone. Aranda insists that we do not have to spend all this money.
White is asking what happened back when the jail was not functioning, county had no money. Judge says commissioners used to do the precinct work, things were cheaper.
Fowlkes says that inmate count at the jail is the most important factor. Inmate count dropped dramatically in 2008, broke the County. He says the County management is much better than in the past, has come a long way. Things that were happening before are not happening, and things are more transparent. County is doing a good job of being efficient. Serving 8000 with a tiny budget.
There is room for improvement, but we are on the right track.
Judge wants to end discussion,
Discussion over. Item 7 is to approve budget and tax rate.
Hernandez asks Patty Roach as new county auditor for suggestions before they go forward.
Patty says monitoring jail is very important. Says that electrical contract savings potential is there, possible. Dept head should utilize BuyBoard for cheaper prices on purchases. She will distribute information to County.
Carlos Nieto raises his hand.
Hernandez asks Katie Sanchez for suggestions. She says they have already hashed out pretty much everything at this point.
Aranda asks about Larry Lunsford. Has he come back with a golf course proposal? He has not come with a presentation but was here last week. They are still interested. White says that would be horrible. Judge as she hopes they have the money.
Carlos Nieto advocates for using BuyBoard for buying power. PISD uses it, very effective. Savings are real.
Item 7- approve budget and tax rate.
.63804 tax rate, budget changed only by the $5000 from ESD to Courthouse Annex
Aranda moves to approve tax rate. White seconds. Unanimous.
FY 2016 budget as amended:
White votes against. Everyone else votes for. Aranda makes the motion. Vasquez seconds. Hernandez says he almost joined White. White says "almost"
Item 8-'scheduling meetings- Judge researched statutes and came across 81.005 of government code. Explains how county is only required to schedule one meeting per month, can schedule special meetings anywhere on an as needed basis.
Special meetings can be in a building providing access to the public. Also explains that regular meetings are all to held at courthouse or courthouse annex type of building. Must be located in the municipal limits of county seat.
So all regular meetings have to held in Marfa, special ones can be held in Presidio.
Commissioners can also select a new site to have meetings. Can have commissioners court in the interest of public safety. Statute never says they can meet outside of County seat unless it's a special meeting. Judge consulted attorney, he advised her not to conduct business outside of the county seat. Judge gives commissioners attorney's number.
Aranda says that there are two cities in this County, many counties only have one.
Judge says she does not want to conduct business outside of the County Seat. Aranda says that is only here in Marfa , that's what you mean. Fowlkes says that you can't "schedule a special meeting, can only call them" unallowed to schedule a special meeting, if you do it's a regular meeting. Hernandez says that he will call the attorney. Fowlkes says that Judge Hunt was scheduling a special meeting in Presidio for the last two years. Not civilly legal, meetings called could be voided if a citizen complained. Has not happened, not likely but still not legal.
Attorney is Jim Allison, a local government expert. Fowlkes agrees with him.
Hernandez wants two meetings per month, does not mind of they are in Marfa.
Can have multiple meetings at the County Seat, special meetings in Presidio.
Aranda does not like this at all. White says he does not necessarily agree either but we need to comply.
Hernandez says that the honest truth is that people don't want to go to Presidio anyway, let's be honest. Vocal disagreement throughout the room. Judge says this is the law, it's not about not wanting to go to Presidio.
Hernandez says he was just trying to speak about what he thinks is the truth.
Fowlkes says that any special meeting has to be called for a specific reason, thee commissioners must agree to meet, but cannot be regularly scheduled.
Hernandez asks if commissioners are voting on this. Judge says yes, we are trying to agree on meetings for scheduling next year.
Hernandez says he does not approve; let's vote. Nobody will admit what's going on, judge says that statement is uncalled for, this is the law.
Hernandez says this is not reasonable or fair for the people of Presidio County.
Judge and White say it's about following the law. Hernandez says that he wishes everyone would speak the truth. Aranda says yes, nothing has ever happened, what is this? Hernandez wants to table this issue. Judge says the law says we must schedule today, it's the law.
Hernandez says they didn't do this last year, we don't have to do it. Judge says this is the law, commissioners shall set the meeting dates on the last meeting day of the year.
Hernandez wants to table. Vasquez says we can schedule only one meeting. Judge says she will call lawyer right now so everyone can get clarification.
Aranda says that this essentially means that this is basically the end of meetings in Presidio. Hernandez says that this is really just about not going to Presidio. Judge disagrees.
Hernandez makes the motion to table this item.
Hernandez, Vasquez and Aranda vote to table, motion carries. Judge says it carries, but we just broke the law.
Fowlkes says they can designate the regular meeting now, it is required by the end of the month. They can add more later.
Hernandez asks what the consequence of this could be. Fowlkes says someone could get the District Judge to void all coming meetings since they are not legally scheduled.
Judge clarifies this has to be done today. Hernandez says he's sticking to his motion.
Aranda asks if they can regularly schedule a Presidio meeting and have to act on agenda items. Hernandez wants to go back to this year's schedule.
Fowlkes clarifies the difference between a special and regular meeting.
Says that they can pass something today, and can adjust it later if needed. Says y must pass this today. And also that regular meeting must be held in the county Seat. This is fact. You can still schedule special meetings as needed, but not in advance.
Hernandez still has doubts.
Fowlkes says you can still have a meeting in Presidio every month, nothing stops you.
Vasquez says the County can have a meeting monthly in Presidio but only have dept heads come to save the County money.
Hernandez says the problem here is the scheduling, right now we now when the Presidio meetings are. Judge reads statute to commissioners.
Vasquez still wants time to study this. Hernandez wants clarification as well about legality.
White says we must pass it today.
Hernandez wants to know consequences, judge says she will call atty general. Fowlkes says that the commissioners run a risk of a challenge, that is the weapon that could be used. White asks "what about the meetings over the last 2 years?"
Fowlkes says that technically they might be able to be challenged.
Judge says that Judge Agan used to have special meetings in Presidio.
Fowlkes says that all those special meetings were never called, that could be the challenge.
Virgie Pallarez says that Judge Hunt had changed the terminology to "Regular Special Meetings".
Aranda says that is the last they approved this, and it worked.
Hernandez says that there is still a problem since y cannot call a special meeting a yer in advance.
Vasquez says that we shod pass this and we could change it later.
Clerk says motion needs to be amended. Vasquez amends the motion to have all meetings in Marfa. Seconded by White. Aranda and Hernandez don't vote yes. Passes 3-2 to schedule. Carlos Nieto has his hand up. Fowlkes clarifies again.
Break at 11:49, 5 minute break. Break for lunch instead.
Back at 12:50PM
Have to go back and re-approve tax rate, divided into M&O and I&S broken down.
Delayed mailing of tax statements:
Patty Roach presents: tax statements going out late because MISD has a vote that affects something, delaying mailing.
Patty says she has down a cash flow analysis and County is fairly healthy regarding cash balance.
Delayed mailing should not cause a panic in collecting next year's taxes. Recommends departments maintain conservative cash out through Oct, wait until Nov to use capital outlay budget items, etc
Judge clarifies that motion will be for all dept heads to only do essential spending only through Oct. Virgie says that's not on agenda, commissioners can only approve the delayed mailing itself.
Item 10- action to include Treasurer and auditor on all checking accents. Patty recommends also including asst county auditor. Item not included on agenda, according to John Fowlkes.
Can bring back agenda item to add asst later. Approved.
Item 11- Treasurer and auditor assigned to all bank accounts as signatory authority. Hernandez moves to table because of working issue of resolution not matcha up to agenda item. Tabled.
Item 12- approve interlocal contract between Presidio County and Lubbock Co medical examiners office. DA recommends bodies for autopsy be take to Lubbock ME. Contract can be cancelled at any time.aranda moves to approve. White seconds. Unanimous
Item 13- return to tax rate issue, item 7.
Norma Arroyo presents proper forms.
Tax rate .583463 for M&O
.054577 for I&S
Amending earlier motion to include breakdown.
Item 13- approve appointment of Estevan Marquez to be courthouse security for Presidio County Courthouse. Motion to approve by White. Hernandez still wants to know what happens when this money runs out. What happens? Patty says there is money for one year for both offices. White amends his motion to approve for one year to the courthouse security position. Unanimous.
Item 14- Steve Coker for courthouse security for Annex in Presidio.
Pg 36 in budget.
Statutory county can spend 25% of funds on non-seat security. Budget does not reflect this. Budgeted $19,000. Katie Sanchez clarifies that one quarter of the fund's total can be used, not necessarily related to amount budgeted for main courthouse. Approved unanimous for one year.
Item 15- executive session airport personnel issue at 1:15
Back at 1:40
Item 16- action on airport personnel. Tabled
Item 17- approved
Item 18- 4H week presentation. Unanimous
Item 19- 4H collaboration letter. Unanimous
Item 20- medical air care and Vivian employee benefits. Approved unanimous
Item 21- require presentations by outside agencies receiving funding from Presidio County. Submit monthly detailed monthly reports. Funds will not be awarded if no presentation. White placed this on the agenda. Says County needs to be accountable for monies given out to entities.
Written report, does not have to be in person. Report would need to be approved.
Aranda says that he would like to see money issued out on a quarterly basis, not disbursed all at once.
White advocates for ESD creation and this information could greatly help pin down costs that will be associated with an ESD.
Hernandez asks if monies will be awarded quarterly or monthly. Has been quarterly. Gary Mitschke asks about activity reports- financial or activity? Judge says both.
Monies would not be awarded without an approved monthly reports. Katie Sanchez says that money can be disbursed quarterly and if you don't approve monthly reports you can divide the quarterly into thirds.
Judge says we can have monthly reports and quarterly payments.
White makes motion to require reports on a monthly basis but payments on a quarterly basis.
Judge seconds motion. Unanimous
Item 22- sanitation services with TDS for Shafter. No action, not in budget.
Item 23- Ford Taurus La Piñata repairs. Crystal Funke says the money needs to come from Harlan Hardy's budget, maybe there is another vehicle available.
10 year old vehicle. No action taken.
Item 24- remove the Ford Taurus. Unanimous.
Item 25- accept Norma's offer to buy roll top desk on 2nd floor. $100. Has not been declared surplus, is historic. Not for sale, no action taken.
Item 26- HVAC contract bid. Sam Cobos presents.
White says this contract has been signed but wasn't approved by commissioners. Backtracking here to get it approved. Cobos says it's for general maintenance. Approved unanimous.
JP 2- total dollars: August
4082.41 sent to state
Total just over $10,000 total.
157,101.57 YTD totals.
Capital Projects: Ruben Carrasco. Submitted via email
Airports manager report:
All further reports accepted.
County bills and expenses:
White asks about repairs to Sheriffs Dept vehicle. Did insurance cover some of it. Yes, Frances Garcia says we have already received payment.
Bill from attorney for lawsuit from Sylvia Parker. Final bill, suit was dropped.
Jail- plumbing bills for toilet repair, prisoners stop up toilets.
White makes motion to accept bills. Unanimous
Adjourn at 2:13 PM.