Who cut the dogs?

Constable Precinct 2 Ed Richter presents his department’s budget recommendations for 2023 to the Court of Commissioners. The budget workshops are over. Atascosa County Auditor Tracy Barrera invited everyone to the public hearings in August to learn more about the county’s budget, tax rate and wage increases for employees. Citizens will be able to register to speak at this meeting. A public notice for this meeting will be published in the Pleasanton Express. Also check the county and Pleasanton Express FaceBook pages for details. NOEL WILKERSON HOLMES | PLEASANTON EXPRESS

Atascosa County commissioners held their second 2023 budget workshop on Monday. The four-hour meeting went smoothly with budget presentations and discussions from police officers, justices of the peace, attorneys county, animal control and fire marshal. During the workshop, commissioners discuss what to cut and accept from departments for the 2023 draft budget.

In late May, Judge Bob Hurley sent all county departments a letter requesting their proposed budgets for 2023. Judge Hurley and Atascosa County Auditor Tracy Barrera sat down together and reviewed all of the proposed budgets. On budgets where they or the commissioners had questions, department heads were called upon to present their budget in person at a Court of Commissioners budget workshop.

“Everyone gets a letter from the judge, and they get a worksheet to complete their requested budget for 2023,” Barrera said. “The instructions are that if they increase their budget, they have to explain why. And if they’re going to buy something like chairs, desks, whatever, they have to provide a quote. The commissioners can then see what they’re up to. “Of course, we know prices may change by next year, but that just gives us a baseline. Each county department submitted their paperwork to the judge in the first part of July.”

All four Constable presentations at Monday’s workshop were accepted with minor adjustments, with the exception of Constable Ed Richter, Pct. 2, which requested an increase in the K9 budget. Barrera asked Richter why he increased his K9 funding since there was only $500 used of the $1,000 budget in 2022.

Richter said his deputy has a certified K9 dog that travels with him daily. He said he also has a dog that he uses, but is not fully certified. He said he paid for that dog’s expenses out of his own pocket. He said the budget increase reflects the extra dog and the higher cost of everything from food to vet bills.

County Commissioner Mark Gillespie questioned the increase and the number of dogs.

“I was going to say a minute ago that we approved the money for a couple of years,” Gillespie said. “For one thing, this is the first time I’ve heard of two dogs, and I’m not comfortable supporting two dogs. I don’t think the department is big enough to handle that, so I’m just supporting what we’ve done.

Barrera said she had several concerns, particularly if the dogs had been approved by the Court of Commissioners. “If these dogs aren’t owned by the county, then they’re a huge liability, and that could be a huge problem. If none of these dogs are county owned or accepted by the commissioners court, I feel like it’s a liability.

Barrera then asked Richter if the two dogs were approved by Commissioner Court.

“They’re not,” Richter said. “These dogs do not belong to the county. We introduced them as a tool to use in our department. If you all want us to take the dogs out, we’ll take the dogs out. Commissioner Gillespie asked in open court what the county’s responsibility was. Deputy County Attorney Trent Rowell said the issue of the dogs continuing to work needs to be discussed further, saying they are a disability.

“I have a lot of concerns about that and about putting money on a dog that the county doesn’t own,” Rowell said. “That worries me very honestly. What I will say is yes, those are all issues we need to discuss, but I would prefer not to have it in public.

Richter was visibly upset by this decision. The rest of Richter’s budget was accepted by the commissioners.

“The commissioners allow you to get your printers, your radios, two brand new radios, your bulletproof vest that protects you, and you get upset and say we’re cutting your budget,” Commissioner Gillespie said. “Nobody cuts your budget. So to run your office differently they provide everything you need except the dog which doesn’t change the way you can function.

Atascosa County Fire Marshal Roger Garcia presented his budget with one notable exclusion — the Pleasanton Fire Department.

“We started this year off pretty hot and heavy, right?” Garcia said. “Our guys ate the hell out of their budgets. Really fast. The call volume is well above what we were last year. Last year was one of those unicorn years. We were wet all year. We didn’t have a year-round ban on burning. But that said, fuel costs are high. Like everything else in this country dang is high right now. I ask that we increase small departments by $3,000 each and large departments by $5,000 each for a total of $30,000.

Barrera asked Garcia if he had the Pleasanton Fire Department in his proposed budget. Garcia said he didn’t include a budget for Pleasanton FD or Country View VFD.

“I don’t have an amount for Pleasanton because the county doesn’t have a contract with them, so I didn’t plan for them to be there. If they come up with something later, they can come up with something. They haven’t provided us with anything that I know of, if they provide it will more than likely be directed at you.

Garcia went on to say that they were doing very well.

“The departments are working. If Pleasanton wants to come to the table, they can come to the table with us; I shouldn’t have to ask them. We are well. If they want to be a server for the community or a service provider for the county, that’s up to all of you.

Barrera asked Garcia if the departments agreed with what they had budgeted. He said yes but qualified this statement.

“Everyone is happy with what they got,” Garcia said. “I say this, but when you’re running a nonprofit, you can’t get enough. And, when you’re talking about emergency first response, money is always an issue – trucks, tools, training. Money is always an issue with fire departments. Getting that supplement will go a long way with those guys and girls…those people,” Garcia said.

Barrera explained the next step in the county’s budget process.

“The first budget workshops need to get direction from the Court of Commissioners, as to what they’re going to consider for everyone’s request,” Barrera said. “On Monday, for any questions the commissioners had on the budgets, they invited the heads of departments to come and give details and supporting support. We start creating the budget based on what the commissioners accept or reject. »

Barrera said there would be no more workshops. The certified appraisal value is due to the county assessor in the appraisal district by July 25. Once these values ​​are certified, the county assessor-collector will calculate the tax rate based on these values. Barrera will then present this to the Court of Commissioners.

Barrera said the proposed 2023 budget will be filed for public inspection at the county clerk’s office and on the Atascosa County website for viewing or downloading.

“My job is to protect taxpayers’ money,” Barrera said. “So for me, transparency is key for that reason.”

Barrera invited everyone to the public hearings in August to learn more about the county’s budget, tax rate and salary increases for employees. By law, the county must publicly announce these meetings. Look for public notices in the Pleasanton Express regarding the date, time and location of these hearings, which are usually held at the County Courthouse, #1 Courthouse Circle in Jourdanton. Citizens can comment on meetings if they arrive before it starts and register to speak.

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