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Kerr County weighs in "too fat"

by Brenda Harrison for TaxpayersWatch



     Kerr County taxpayers are not getting very much "bang for our buck." In fact, according to a study conducted by County Commissioner #4 Dave Nicholson, and presented to commissioners court on May 9, Kerr County ranks dead last among 13 counties in both efficiency of government and employee productivity. Shocking?


     The counties included in the study were Atascosa, Cherokee, Hardin, Hood, Kerr, Lamar, Maverick, Medina, Navarro, Polk, Rusk, Val Verde and Wharton. The common denominator is a population of 40,000 to 50,000. Kerr has a population of 44,984.


     Nicholson said the numbers showed the primary reason that Kerr government is expensive is "over-staffing." He found no correlation between a larger municipal population and lower efficiency or productivity; indeed there is an inverse correlation. His conclusion: Our county budget is fat and we need to go on a diet.


     To help TaxpayersWatch readers understand Nicholson's result, I went to the Texas Association of Counties website, using the same data base. I used the 2003-04 data so that it could be compared with the other counties. At the end of this article, you'll find the 2005 salaries for several county department heads. Please note that these salaries do not include benefits received; one could argue that you must add at least 25% to these numbers. 


     There are some striking discrepancies in salaries of employees in each of the studied counties. I will compare Kerr to Lamar since the budgets are similar. Lamar County is in North Texas along the Red River; the largest town is Paris, pop. 26,120. The County Judge salaries are very close, but there is a large difference in the experienced (employee) salaries. Kerr paid $42,965 against Lamar's $27,986. Kerr County has a disproportionate share of mental health cases filed, probably because of the Kerrville State Hospital.


     Kerr County Commissioners are among the lowest paid at $36,870, but this is because some years ago the commissioners gave away their Road and Bridge function to an administrator and part-time engineer. The administrator was paid $55,738 and the part-time engineer $23,286. If you divide the administrator's salary by four and add it to the commissioner's salary, the amount comes to $50,805 for each commissioner. The part-time engineer would probably still be needed even if the commissioners ran their own Road and Bridge Department. This would make them the highest paid of the studied counties.


     Just as the UGRA uprising several years ago caused the commissioners to take back their OSSF (On-Site Septic Facilities) duties they had abdicated to the UGRA, saving $75,000 plus, this could also be accomplished by taking back their Road and Bridge function.


     The County Attorney made $98,286, which is in line with the other counties. Also in line are two assistants at $37,668 and $41,577, and four other employees from $21,347 to $26,010.


     The County Clerk's salary is $40,243, in line with other counties. Not so, however, with the the number of employees. Kerr has 13 deputy clerks while Lamar has only 6. 


     The District Clerk's salaries are in line, but again the number of employees is high. Kerr had a Chief Deputy and 7 other deputy clerks, handling 750 civil and 593 criminal cases, while Lamar handled 1595 civil and 872 criminal cases with only 6 deputies.


     The Kerr County Auditor, as a part-time position, received $39,773, with two employees. The other counties paid similar salaries for full-time positions.


     The Sheriff's salary was $45,885, in line with other counties. However, the number of deputies is again large. Kerr had 38 deputies, paid between $26,000 and $36,739. The next highest is Hood County with 27 deputies. This is quite a gap.  Salaries are in line.


     The County Tax Assessor/Collector was paid $40,243 for supervising 11 deputy clerks. Lamar has only 9 deputy clerks. Salaries are in line.


     Justices of the Peace make $32,055 and they each had one clerk with salaries between $20,826 and $22,988. In all other counties, JP's share clerks, either one part-time each or two for four JP's.


     It is not difficult to see from this information that our county government is bloated and there are a few places that present obvious problems. The Peer Comparison Survey of Texas Counties with populations of 40,000 to 50,000 states that Val Verde County spends $101 per citizen and Kerr County spends $414 per citizen. Lamar spends $353 per citizen. I believe we should aim for that level.



Salaries for 2004-2005

County Clerk................$44,816
District Clerk................$44,816
Tax Assessor...............$44,816
Chief Deputy Sheriff.......$53,437
Jail Administrator..........$40,609
Road and Bridge Administrator...$73,370
Maintenance Adminstrator.........$42,336
County Commissioners.............$40,226
County Judge...........................$53,192
(plus state supplement of $10,000)

to read letter about this article, click here.

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