From the Weatherford Democrat, by Judy Sheridan, April 10,2012
WEATHERFORD — All salary increases for Parker County employees must comply with the county’s step and grade policy and can only be granted if previously approved in the budget process, according to a motion made by Judge Mark Riley, seconded by Commissioner George Conley and passed 4-0 by commissioners Monday.
The court also voted to have the judge appoint a committee to study the salary structure for the county and bring the committee back to the court for approval.
In a second motion, made by Riley and seconded by Commissioner Craig Peacock, the court appointed assistant county auditor Ron Stokes to chair and recommend members for a committee that will develop a policy for vehicle replacement.
Riley and commissioners Conley, Peacock and Dusty Renfro voted in favor of the measures. Commissioner John Roth was absent.
“There are two departments who have come to me requesting salary increases, but I didn’t sponsor them,” Riley told the court. “We have a grade and step plan, but we need to clarify the position of the court.”
When a county employee leaves, Riley said, department heads sometimes ask to divide that person’s salary among the remaining workers.
“If that money is already approved [for their budget], why would we want to be looking over their shoulders,” Renfro asked.
“If Clerk X leaves, Clerk Y shouldn’t get that money just because Clerk X is gone,” Riley said. “People used to do that. The treasurer has been through that before.”
Instead, to insure that all employees are treated fairly, Riley said, salary increases need to comply with county policy.
“Bigger departments may have some more money to play with,” he said. “It’s about equity and fairness.”
Renfro said later that some of the county’s department heads and elected officials have been asking for permission to eliminate certain positions and spread the salaries out among other employees.
One of the main reasons, he believes, is that employees haven’t been given raises in several years.
If a position can be eliminated, Renfro said, it means it wasn’t necessary in the first place.
Cutting positions also cuts costly employee benefits, he said.
“Anytime you eliminate a position, you eliminate benefits,” he said. “I’m glad they’re using this as a technique to lower costs for the county and take care of current employees at the same time.”
Salary changes can only be made at budget time, Renfro said.
“We want to make sure if they give away that salary, the position is eliminated, and they can’t fill it again the next budget year,” he said.
Vehicle replacement policy
Stokes, newly appointed chair of the new vehicle replacement policy committee, said he will submit a list of names for the committee to the court for approval.
The committee will then try to develop a cost-efficient plan for replacing equipment that is worn-out or obsolete.
“There’s nothing written down,” he said. “We’d like to get something in writing and get everyone on board.”
The plan will even out budget expenditures, Stokes said, so that a large amount is not needed one year and a small amount the next.
“We hope this will help with the budget in years to come,” he said, “to have an up-to-date fleet and yet find a way to protect the taxpayer’s dollar.”
Stokes said he was a member of a similar committee headed by Peacock before Peacock’s election to commissioners’ court.
“It was a similar deal, but it just never got put together,” he said. “We started on it but got distracted for various reasons.”