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New budget highlights Llano County’s struggle to compete in job market

Llano County Commissioners Court Aug. 22, 2022

The Llano County Commissioners Court adopted a fiscal year 2022-23 budget and tax rate during a special budget hearing on Monday, Aug. 22. The budget includes a 7 percent raise for county employees. County Judge Ron Cunningham (center) expressed concern over competition with Burnet County, which still pays more than Llano County despite the raises. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

Llano County employees will get a 7 percent pay raise after commissioners adopted the fiscal year 2022-23 budget, but officials worry it still won’t be enough to compete in the job market.

Commissioners adopted the county budget and tax rate at a special budget meeting Monday, Aug. 22. The new budget, which begins Oct. 1, includes pay raises for all county employees made possible by a $1.2 million revenue increase from the new tax rate combined with increased property values.

“We made cost-of-living adjustments for our employees across the board,” said Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham, adding that the county is still struggling with losing staff to Burnet County’s higher wages.

The 7 percent cost-of-living raises were based on recent U.S. inflation rates figured at 8.5 percent as of July 2022 by the U.S. Inflation Calculator.

By comparison, the Burnet County Commissioners Court approved a mid-year cost-of-living adjustment for county employees in April of 5 percent for most staff and 7 percent for law enforcement.

The Llano County Sheriff’s Office has especially struggled to compete with its Burnet County counterpart, Blackburn said. The base rate salary for a Llano County deputy is $48,000, while the lowest paid deputy in Burnet County receives a salary of $58,711

“We’ve always been kind of a training area for other counties,” Blackburn said. “Over the years, we lose people. I guess that’s the nature of the beast. People want to improve themselves.”

Officer pay became an issue during a Commissioners Court meeting in June when Judge Cunningham and Sheriff Blackburn had an open dispute over deputy salaries and workload.  

The fiscal year 2022-23 pay raises are partially due to Cunningham and Blackburn resolving their differences and making an effort to improve deputy salaries and working conditions.

“If you look at counties across the board, there is going to be friction in government,” Cunningham told “That’s what happened with the sheriff. We had friction in here. Then, we met and worked it out.”

The disparity in deputy pay between Llano County and Burnet County comes down to population and taxable property value. Llano County’s population in 2021 was estimated at 21,978. Its total property valuation comes to $5.1 billion, according to the Llano Central Appraisal District. Burnet County’s population in 2021 was estimated at 50,954. Total property values were calculated at $17.6 billion by the Burnet Central Appraisal District. 

The total revenues expected in Llano County’s fiscal year 2022-23 budget come to $16 million, while Burnet County’s proposed fiscal year 2022-23 budget shows expected revenues of $26.3 million.

Llano County’s adopted tax rate of 0.26621 cents per $100 evaluation increased county revenues by $1.2 million, a 7.8 percent increase in revenue from the previous fiscal year. Of that increase, $438,461 is from property added to the tax roll in fiscal year 2021-22.

Burnet County’s proposed tax rate of 0.3766 cents per $100 evaluation will increase county revenues by $5.4 million, a 17 percent increase in revenue from the previous fiscal year. Of that increase, $1.5 million will come from property added to the tax roll in fiscal year 2021-22.

“It’s just the economics of the county,” Sheriff Blackburn said. “We don’t have the growth of Burnet or Williamson (counties).”

1 thought on “New budget highlights Llano County’s struggle to compete in job market

  1. I guess it comes down to the old adage “you get what you pay for”. Burnet county can afford higher salaries in part because they levy 11 cents more per $100 valuation!

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