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Burnet County justice of the peace clerks could get job boost in 2022 budget

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that a $25,000 line item in the 2021-22  budget was designated for a study on how justice of the peace clerks should fit into the county’s overall organization chart. The study might not cost that much, according to County Judge James Oakley. That is just the amount budgeted. Also, it will be used to study the organizational chart of the entire county “to make sure there’s equity,” he said. He also stressed that any changes would not be made until the next budget cycle in 2022-23.

Burnet County justice of the peace clerks might be raised from level 60 to level 63 in the hierarchy of county employees, County Judge James Oakley said at the Commissioners Court meeting Tuesday, July 27. He plans to use $25,000 in his proposed 2021-22 budget to study the county’s organizational chart for a possible change during the next budget cycle that would look at equity between all county jobs.

To make the change for the four justice of the peace clerks, Oakley would have to find about $32,000 to fund the required pay bump. The change would give the four clerks currently on the payroll a $3 an hour raise, or $6,614 more a year. 

Oakley stressed after the meeting that a change in the organizational chart would not happen in this budget cycle.

“I can tell you that aspect is not in the budget I plan to file,” he told DailyTrib.com. “I did not get any feedback from commissioners that they wanted that in there.”

Commissioners will look at making changes after the study in the next budget cycle, he said. 

In making the request, Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Roxanne Nelson stressed that the change was not about the money but rather the level of work required of justice of the peace clerks. 

“At the very least, our full-time clerks are doing as much work and more complicated work than other clerks,” she said at the meeting. “They are covering civil and criminal cases. They have to deal with attorneys and jury trials.” 

She pointed out that job descriptions for the positions have changed over the years and no longer reflect the true nature of a justice of the peace clerk’s responsibilities. 

“The duties of JP clerks are greater than currently recognized by their ranking,” Nelson said. “They are all court coordinators, just at different courts.” 

An outside study by a third party would help “bring the clerks up to an equitable position with other clerks,” Oakley said. 

Oakley is due to turn in a proposed budget on Friday, July 30. The Commissioners Court will then hold hearings and discussions on the budget before approving a final version, which is due no later than Oct. 1, when the new fiscal year begins.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Don Dockery warned of what he called “a ripple effect” in making the change and said he thought the study should be done first. 

“Given our growth, I’m comfortable we can do this,” Oakley said. “I think we can find the money.” 

The initial request was to move clerks from level 60 to level 68, which Nelson said she knew was “aspirational.” Currently, the highest-paid clerk is the chief deputy clerk at level 65.

Level 64 employees include executive assistants in the District Attorney’s office, assistant road and bridge foremen, and assistant maintenance supervisors. Road and bridge foremen are at level 69. 

Level 60 includes administrative assistants to the AgriLife Extension office and deputy clerks in the tax assessor and county treasurer’s offices. 

suzanne@thepicayune.com