Commissioners At Odds Over Budget

After meeting for nearly seven hours Monday, Smith County Commissioners have come up with another version of an ever changing budget.

The new version adds back some previously cut jobs and returns the funding for retiree benefits, but it has left many other cuts still on the table.

From the Sheriff's Department to the County Clerks office most county departments are facing cuts. County Clerk Lois Rodgers said the cuts may be more than her department can take.

"I was very nice last year, I went along with the cuts, we worked with one less person," she said. "We are taking on more responsibilities October 1 and are expecting to take on more... You're killing us."

As the meeting went on, more and more managers came forward. Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Mitch Shamburger could lose one worker, and said if other cuts go through, others may leave on their own.

"Probably one of the hardest working clerks that I have said, 'Look, if I'm going to have to take on all the extra work, I"m going to have to take on a job somewhere else'."

Commissioners went through the proposed budget line by line. Making some changes, County Judge Becky Dempsey said the cuts that remain are necessary to balance the budget. It's a point she made clear in a September 13 interview.

"When you're in a position that this court is in to make difficult decisions that face the financial future of this county, lives are going to be affected."

Commissioner Don Pinkerton said that shouldn't be done at the loss of employees.

"This court took a position, at least when I came on, that we were going to do all we could for employees," he said. "Here I see now, because of the budget constraints, that we're sacrificing employees for the budget."

It's a sacrifice Pinkerton said, he is not willing to make.

The Commissioners Court is set to vote on a final budget Thursday. Until then, changes can still be made to the current proposal.

Chris Gibson, reporting