Despite opposition, county approves 2014 budget - KLTV.com-Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville, Texas | ETX News

Despite opposition, county approves 2014 budget

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TYLER, TX (KLTV) -

On Tuesday morning, the Smith County Commissioners Court unanimously approved the proposed 2014 budget.

This includes a pay raise for elected officials and funds for the county jail's expansion and renovations.

"It's important sometimes to address the issues that have been plaguing us for some time, and one of those areas is elected officials salaries. Each year, we get complaints from elected officials saying that we are not keeping up with the trend for counties of our size," Smith County Judge Joel Baker said.

Judge Baker said this approved budget will give elected officials, with the exception of the county judge and commissioners, roughly a 7 to 10 percent raise.

But JoAnn Fleming with "Grassroots America We the People" thinks that number is too high.

"The salary increases for the elected officials should have been reduced to the one and half percent that the employees got. Here is why: leaders lead from the front and it's just not a wise thing to take a bigger pay raise as an elected official than your front line employees," Fleming said.

Fleming was not the only one who spoke out in opposition to the budget. Sharon Guthrie, a Smith County taxpayer, went before the commissioners court and said,"How is it honorable, I should say, to give oneself and other county elected officials such large raises when others are not given this opportunity in the private sector?"

Judge Baker said the county has experienced a costly "turnover trend", something he is hopeful these raises will address.  

"I think certainly having some salary adjustments from their base salary for all the employees is an important thing, it helps improve morale, but we are looking at other things as well," Judge Baker explained.

Other things like an increase in the county's retirement match from 100 percent to 125 percent, an increase in employee longevity pay and a cost of living adjustment of 1.5 percent to non-entry level employees.

The approved budget will also allow for the hiring of ten detention officers as part of the county's jail renovation and expansion project.

Judge Baker said he knew coming in to Tuesday's meeting that not everyone would walk away happy, but he said he is pleased about moving forward with this budget.

To take a look at the full budget, click here.

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