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Burnet County JPs renew request to boost clerks in organizational chart

Burnet County Justices of the Peace Roxanne Nelson (left), Janie Marie Hurst, Lisa Whitehead, and Debra Bindseil

Burnet County Justices of the Peace Roxanne Nelson (left), Janie Marie Hurst, Lisa Whitehead, and Debra Bindseil asked commissioners on Aug. 10 to reclassify justice of the peace clerks at a higher level to match their current job responsibilities. Staff photo by Suzanne Freeman

Burnet County justices of the peace brought back a request to the Commissioners Court on Aug. 10 to reclassify their clerks, this time with a five-page job description in hand outlining job duties. Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Roxanne Nelson first approached commissioners at a July 27 meeting asking on behalf of the county’s four justices of the peace that the head clerks in each office be reclassified from level 60 to level 68.

Quick calculations at the meeting determined that moving the four positions to level 63 would cost the county about $32,000 a year. At the time, it seemed like Judge James Oakley would try to find the money to include that in his upcoming budget. He said after the meeting, however, that he did not get the positive response he needed from the commissioners, so he did not include it in his proposed budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year. That brought all four justices of the peace to the court Aug. 10 to renew their request.

At the end of a long discussion, it was agreed that they return again for the next County Commissioners meeting Aug. 24. During that time, a fiscal note will be put together to explore costs and effects on the overall budget. 

“This is something that has been long overdue,” said Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Debra Bindseil. “The duties of our chief clerk are the same as the other court coordinators in the county and district offices.” 

Money was included in the proposed budget to pay an unbiased third party to study the county organizational chart and make suggestions for how to make it more equitable. Oakley proposed that they wait for the study before any changes were made. 

Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Lisa Whitehead pointed out that several reclassifications were made last year and were in the proposed budget for this year, all without the benefit of a survey.

“I think we are owed that as well,” she said, holding up the job description. “I don’t see why we should pay $25,000 on a study for something you can see for yourself right here. Use that money to fund our clerks.” 

Oakley pointed out that the survey would not cost the entire $25,000 and that it was a research line item that is typically included in budgets.

All four of the justices of the peace asked the commissioners to read the five-page job description before making a decision.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Don Dockery and Precinct 1 Commissioner Jim Luther each said they needed to see the numbers proving increased case load and duties for the clerks as well as how much moving the four positions up to the higher level — 68 — would cost. 

The justices of the peace actually came to the table with two requests: the reclassification of their chief clerks and changing one part-time position to a full-time position. 

Precinct 2 Commissioner Damon Beierle asked if they could only have one of their requests, which would they prefer. Whitehead stepped up again. 

“I would choose that all four of our chief clerks be reclassified to a 68,” she said. “I would ask that they be classified to a grade appropriate to their jobs. They are really working at a 68.”

Just like at the July 27 meeting, commissioners and the justices of the peace discussed reclassifying at a 63, or even a 64, instead with the goal of upping the classification again in a few years. 

“We understand there may not be enough money for a 68,” Whitehead said, “but they should be reclassified to something more appropriate. Sixty is not appropriate. If we got a 68, we would jump for joy. If we got a 64, we would feel like we have been listened to.” 

Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Janie Marie Hurst pointed out that this was not a new request.

“We come here annually,” she said. 

The Aug. 24 meeting will also include public hearings on the proposed 2021-22 budget and the tax rate. Both will be held in the county courthouse, 220 S. Pierce St. in Burnet, at 9:30 a.m. Commissioners Court begins at 9 a.m. 

suzanne@thepicayune.com