After reviewing the proposed budget, several areas arouse interest, questions and concerns.
Having been a landowner in Karnes County since 1972, and having enjoyed the past forty-one years spending time with my family and the local citizenry, I have developed great love and admiration for the work ethic and dedication to country that our citizens possess. We are not afraid to venture into far off lands in defense of our country; we are not afraid to venture into the world and leave a mark that reflects well upon our upbringing; and, most of all, we are thankful for the blessings we have received and continue to receive from this great nation.
In addition to the blessings, we face many challenges in Karnes County. When I became privy to the Proposed Budget of 2013-2014, I began to wonder and also ask myself the question “Why Do I Wonder”? Our leaders certainly care about Karnes County, if not why would they serve? They have been asked and have chosen to lead. Therefore, it is our duty as constituents to let them know how we feel about the issues of the day. We want to help these leaders make good decisions based on their knowledge and the expressed needs of the county’s people.
1. Road and Bridge Department
Budget for the year 2013-2014: $ 6,076,560.66
Budget for the previous year 2012-2013: $3,371,963.00
The safety of our citizens is a primary function of government. We applaud our good fortune while recognizing that with traffic increases, there must be a major effort to assure safer county roads. Karnes County has increased the road and bridge maintenance budget by $1.7 million dollars. Generously, the State of Texas has committed to significant additional funds ($10-$15 million) to supplement this budget. We trust the commissioners will use these funds wisely.
The County has advertised for a Road and Bridge Department Administrator whose salary is listed at $45,000. Would we be best served by searching for a Professional Engineer, with the education, qualifications and contacts to direct our Road and Bridge efforts?
2. Emergency Management Coordinator: Is this shared with another department?
A salary of $15,713.88 seems low since we have EMS, Microwave Project, Digital Handheld radio for the County Judge, Laptop, Air card, Printer, and Communications lumped into one category amounting to most of the budgeted amount of 63,109.97. I wonder.
3. Agrilife Extension Service Department: $116,040.41
Our County has historically been a community of farmers, ranchers and folks who educated their kids by selling off a few calves in the fall at tuition time, or supporting the various youth programs within the county. Many people in this County have learned the value of budgeting and responsibility for their animals well being from these programs. This budget item seems a pittance. Growing up in the country and as a kid benefitting by the sale of multiple animals in my youth years, I feel this program deserves more attention.
4. Sheriff Department Budget: $3,194,415.29
2012-2013 Budget Expense: $1,739,877.90
An increase of $ 1,454,537.39 which amounts to 46% increase in salaries for this department suggests that crime is rapidly overtaking the County. One might wonder has crime in the county increased by 46%.
A review of the salaries and the manner in which the Sheriff and his deputies are paid could correct some discrepancies. The cost of hiring and training 9 additional deputies and 2 additional deputies to deal with drug problems seems excessive at this time. Perhaps taking another look at the hours worked and compensatory time paid and credited to each employ could better serve our budgetary process.
5. Expansion of County Buildings: Requests for additional facilities
Would it not be more prudent to reassess the county buildings, the plans for a new EMS facility, county jail, and then develop a master plan for Karnes County? Is it not time to develop a regional approach to our success? This county is going to grow in spite of us and our varied desires. Do we prefer controlled growth that assures a better quality of life for each of us and our families or a more reactive approach?
In view of the reported lack of ability to staff the John B. Connally Facility in Kenedy, the availability of 15 beds at the Federal Facility in Karnes City, the renewed face on the Karnes County Courthouse, and the fact that Karnes County is a hot-bed of economic activity NOT of crime, should we focus our efforts on employment and supporting the infrastructure expansion in preparation for the future growth that is sure to come our way?