GEORGETOWN — Williamson County’s proposed budget includes 27 new positions, a 4% cost of living adjustment for employees and a more than 17% raise for starting corrections officers.
The total amount of the proposed budget is $287.5 million, a 7.4% increase over last year’s adopted budget of $267.7 million.
County spokeswoman Connie Odom said that contributing to the proposed increase over last year’s budget are salary increases due largely to cost of living adjustments, a new EMS station in Leander to accommodate the growing population in the area and more money for capital improvements.
The proposed budget includes about $2.6 million for 27 new positions. It also has set aside about $5.3 million for a cost of living adjustment and a 2% merit raise for non-law-enforcement employees.
Under the proposed budget there is about $1.7 million for cost of living adjustments and step increases for every year of service for law enforcement employees. Starting corrections officers also would receive a 17% pay raise in the suggested budget at a total of $3 million.
The raises and step increases for all county employees total about $10.5 million, which is 3.5% of the total proposed budget amount, said Ashlie Holladay, the county’s budget officer.
Holladay presented the proposed budget at the Commissioners Court on Tuesday. A copy of the presentation can be found at bit.ly/3ytnPWa.
The commissioners set a proposed total maximum tax rate of 44.1 cents per $100 valuation, a reduction from the current rate of 45.9 cents per $100 valuation. The commissioners may change the proposed tax rate at future meetings.
A hearing on the tax rate will take place at 10:15 a.m. on Aug. 31.
Under state law, local governments cannot increase their property tax rate by more than 3.5% per year.
The average value of a Williamson County home with a homestead exemption this year is $307,000, while the average value last year of $298,00. The county also has gained $3.5 billion in new commercial and residential value this year, said Larry Gaddes, the county’s tax assessor.
If the county was to raise the same amount of tax revenue as last year, it would have to lower the tax rate to $39.4 cents per $100 valuation.
County Judge Bill Gravell asked on Tuesday that an 8% raise for elected officials be added to the proposed budget. The raise would not include district judges or county-court-at law judges whose salaries are governed by the Legislature.
Gravell also asked that the salary of constables, who are also elected officials, be raised to match the salary that a justice of the peace receives. A constable currently makes $86,500 per year in the county, compared to a justice of the peace who receives an annual salary of about $91,468.
A study showed the county’s salaries for elected officials except for the county attorney was 14% to 20% lower than salaries in other markets, Rebecca Clemons, the county’s senior director of human resources,said on Tuesday.
The county attorney’s salary was only 6% below salaries in other comparable markets, she said. The county attorney would receive a 4% raise under Gravell’s proposal.
The total amount of the proposed raises for elected officials, including constables and the county attorney, is $116,215, Clemons said
Williamson County Sheriff Chief Deputy Ken Evans asked the commissioners on Tuesday to raise law enforcement officers’ salaries in the proposed budget.
The county could take the $796,194 it has set aside for the officers’ proposed cost of living adjustment and add $1.7 million to it to give officers a raise, Evans said. The resulting total raise of $2.5 million would put officers 1% above the median salary for law enforcement officers in nearby areas, Evans said.
The sheriff’s office is having trouble attracting deputies because the county is paying the lowest salary in the area, Evans said. The city of Cedar Park pays its police 23% more than sheriff’s deputies receive, he said.
District Attorney Shawn Dick also spoke to commissioners on Tuesday, asking them to add two new positions in his office to the proposed budget. The new positions are a child abuse prosecutor and an appellate appellant prosecutor.
When the district attorney’s office hired its first child abuse prosecutor three years ago, that prosecutor handled 30 to 40 sexual assault of a child cases a year, Dick said. The number of child sexual assault cases is expected to increase to 110 this year, he said.
Crime is increasing, he said, because the county’s population is growing.
The 27 new positions in the county’s proposed budget include an engineer, a legal assistant for district courts, a family justice legal assistant for the county attorney’s office, a contracts specialist, two tax specialists and three analysts in the IT department.
The proposed positions also include six paramedics, an EMS lieutenant, a community engagement coordinator, an animal officer, an open records office specialist, two sergeants in corrections and a sewage facility sanitarian.
They also include four rehab crew operators and one administrative technician, all in the road and bridge department.
The suggested budget also includes $12.7 million for capital improvement projects that have not yet been determined. There is also $12 million in the proposed budget for the county’s long-range transportation plan and $821,000 for the new EMS station in Leander.