Burnet County Commissioner Joe Don Dockery reads a name picked from an envelope held by Vicinta Stafford of the County Clerk’s Office while fellow Commissioner Billy Wall awaits his turn. The envelope held names of Burnet County residents who have served on grand juries in the past year. Eleven were chosen — nine members and two alternates — to serve on the Salary Grievance Committee. Staff photo by Suzanne Freeman
The 2021-22 Burnet County budget will soon take center stage at Commissioners Court meetings. Discussions on including new items not already in the budget began at the court’s regular meeting Tuesday, July 13.
Burnet County Judge James Oakley has until July 31 to present the new budget to commissioners, who will then work out the details over the next three months. The final budget must be adopted by Oct. 1.
The upcoming budget will get some help from the American Rescue Plan Act, which provides money that can be used to help counties recover from the negative economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Commissioners also voted to apply for two different grants to install electric vehicle-charging stations at county-owned parking lots and help fund a transition to LED lights at all county facilities.
“We applied for it to see,” Oakley said. “With these types of grants, you apply for them, but you don’t necessarily have to use them.”
Both grants would require 20 percent matching funds. The charging station grant would be for $9,000; the LED lights grant for $75,000. The county already has matching funds set aside for these types of grants in its current budget.
“I’ve had some people ask if we could put some charging stations around the courthouse,” Oakley told DailyTrib.com after the meeting. “The city owns the sidewalks and parking around the courthouse, and we can’t apply for grants for land we don’t own. We do own the parking lots at the north and south county annexes.”
As for new budget requests not already included, the sheriff’s office has asked for eight new deputies. Four new positions are already included in the upcoming budget, Oakley said.
Also, two justices of the peace have asked that part-time positions on their staffs be funded as full-time positions. A third justice wants to reinstate a part-time position and add overtime money to her budget.
The county hopes to include a new county maintenance position and a new janitorial position as well. The janitor could be paid for out of COVID-19 funds from the federal government.
Additional positions are also needed at the Burnet County Jail, another place where ARPA funds can be used. Those positions had to be added because of extra screening and isolation needs caused by the pandemic.
“What about when those ARPA funds run out,” Commissioner Damon Beierle asked.
“That’s a really good question,” Oakley replied, adding that the county will have at least two years to find ways to incorporate new positions and expenditures into future budgets.
In other business, commissioners also:
declared July First Responders Month;
agreed to allow the Highland Lakes Amateur Radio Club to house its emergency response radio trailer at Precinct 4 facilities;
and rehired Pattillo, Brown & Hill LLP to conduct the annual county audit.
They also agreed to up the reimbursement of work boots from $100 to $130.
“No two boots are created equal,” said Oakley as the commissioners voted to increase reimbursement.
A request from Commissioner Beierle to reimburse employees for prescription safety glasses at $100 each was tabled for more study.
“This is not something we’ve done before,” Oakley said. “Is it OK if we slept on that a little bit?”