Court rejects UCAD budget, moves to slash phone bills
by MAC OVERTON
Jun 20, 2013 | 1595 views | 1 1 comments | 74 74 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mirror Photo / Mac Overton<br>
COMMISSIONERS LISTEN as Pct. 3 Comm. Frank Berka, second from left, presents a plan to cut the county’s cellphone bill by more than half. Listening to Berka at Friday’s meeting of the court are, from left, Pct. 4 Comm. Mike Spencer, Judge Dean Fowler, Pct. 2 Comm. Cole Hefner and Pct. 1 Comm. Paula Gentry. The measure was unanimously adopted.
Mirror Photo / Mac Overton
COMMISSIONERS LISTEN as Pct. 3 Comm. Frank Berka, second from left, presents a plan to cut the county’s cellphone bill by more than half. Listening to Berka at Friday’s meeting of the court are, from left, Pct. 4 Comm. Mike Spencer, Judge Dean Fowler, Pct. 2 Comm. Cole Hefner and Pct. 1 Comm. Paula Gentry. The measure was unanimously adopted.
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Upshur County became the first of 17 taxing entities to vote on a proposed 2013-2014 fiscal year budget for the Upshur County Appraisal District.

Commissioners voted unanimously, 4-0,to reject it. The action came at Friday’s regular mid-month meeting of the court.

At issue was a five percent pay increase for UCAD employees, which is built into the proposed budget.

UCAD sets appraised values on taxable real property in the county. It is funded by the county, cities, schools and other taxing entities within the county who use its services.

Pct. 2 Comm. Cole Hefner led commissioners in opposing the raise. He said that the Appraisal District employees had received raises in three of the last four years—2009, 2010 and 2011, but that it’s been six years since county employees got a raise.

UCAD’s proposed budget is $790,800. It has 11 on staff.

Chief Appraiser Sarah Curtis said that raises are based on performance reviews or when a staffer receives a higher certification.

Hefner said that commissioners “should veto their budget,” because of the county’s current financial problems—the court just had to make emergency cuts of about $1 million from its 2012-2013 budget (which runs through Sept. 30) to avoid a shortfall. He pointed out that the county employees have not received a raise for years.

While Upshur County pays about 27 percent of UCAD’s budget, and Gilmer ISD pays about 30 percent, they each only have only one vote toward approving UCAD’s budget, the same as the entities which pay only a small percentage.

If nine of the 17 okay the proposed budget, it will stand approved.

Mrs. Curtis has said that she will meet with other taxing entities to explain UCAD’s need for the raises.

She has said that her staff is paid less than those at Appraisal Districts elsewhere in East Texas, and she needed the pay increase to be able to keep good, experienced people.

The commissioners approved a plan developed by Pct. 3 Comm. Frank Berka to ban personal use of county-issued cell phones.

Under his proposal, the cell phones would be issued to department heads, who would allocate them to employees they determined needed them.

The department heads would be required to review bills for their respective departments, and make sure they are not being used for personal calls.

Berka said that if a department head did not review his or her department’s bills, the cell phones for that department should be shut off.

Hefner agreed with him.

He said that the plan had been developed with the heads of the county Maintenance Department and the Road and Bridge Department, with an investigator from the Sheriff’s Criminal Investigation Division representing that office.

He said that his plan would cut county cell phone bills from the current $2,800 a month to about $1,320.

Janice Tucker, County Auditor who was at the meeting, said that it was the responsibility of department heads to review the cell phone bills for a particular department.

Hefner said that “if a department head refuses to pay the bill, then I would do it only once and, like Frank said, I would turn them off.”

Commissioners also agreed to a request from Mrs. Tucker to request proposals for new county software.

The county’s base software was installed in 1983, and after 30 years, the software “will cease to be supported” as of this coming Dec. 31.

Mrs. Tucker said she expected installation, once a vendor is selected, to take months, but she wanted to get started on it now, since it will need to be included in the 2013-2014 fiscal year budget.

She said that three vendors already want to scheduled presentations.

County Clerk Brandy Lee and Treasurer Myra Harris both said that one vendor’s software does not use a decimal system, which could lead to “confusion”—for example, would something written as $100000 be $1,000 or $10,000.

Commissioners voted to accept a grant to replace a voice recorder for the county 911 emergency-call system. The recorder is projected to cost $14,600, and ETCOG will reimburse up to $15,000.

They also approved spending $197 from the Justice of the Peace Security Fun to repair a communication radio at the county’s Rock Building, where the Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace Office is located.
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Anon14
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June 21, 2013
The commissioners need to understand that the lack of pay raises for county employees vs. CAD employees (especially field appraisers) is like comparing apples to oranges. The education level required for each position differs drastically. Without qualified CAD employees, the CAD cannot perform the job that they are charged with effectively. More money is spent on educating new employees which can run into the tens of thousands. When appraisals are not performed by the CAD at a level required by the State of Texas, all entities and taxpayers within that county suffer because of incorrect appraised values. Perhaps the commissioner's should take a closer look at the services that taxpayers expect for their tax dollars to see which ones can be cut because of inexperienced CAD employees. Employee turnover hurts everyone concerned, at every level, when there is a missing cog in the gear nothing works at the level it should.