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Elections Commission pushes for raises

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Posted: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 3:33 pm

During a budget hearing on Tuesday, Anderson Councilwoman Erna Freeman told the Commissioners Court she was one of the attendees at the Grimes County Elections Commission Board’s meeting, held one day prior, who agreed Elections Administrator Rebecca Duff is due for a raise.

Freeman, who previously began helping with elections under County Clerk David Pasket many years ago - prior to the county’s creation of an Elections Administrator position, approximately six years ago - as part of the Early Election and Resolution Board, said Duff deserved a raise, as the amount of responsibility for that office has increased significantly.

“There are a lot more cities in the county, there are more people in the county, there are more state and federal laws that have to be implemented. And, for that reason, I do agree that Vanessa (Elections Deputy Clerk Vanessa Burzynski) and Becky need the increase in salary for the number of hours and all the regulations and laws that they have to abide by,” said Freeman.

Elections Commission Board member Joe Fauth said a $40,000 salary is being recommended for the administrator who currently receives $37,021, which will be $38,131.63 for FY 2013, once the commissioners’ proposed three percent increase for all county employees is implemented.

“And just to give a reference, the $40,000 adjusts to about $18.33 per hour, so we don’t feel like this is an exorbitant amount,” said Fauth.

The commission is also requesting that Burzynski’s salary be increased to $12 per hour.

In a letter to commissioners, Fauth said, “It is proposed to take this position to $11.18 an hour from $10.86. We propose to take this position to a minimum of $12 per hour for 2013. For comparison, the county is proposing to pay its janitor $14.85 per hour for almost $31,000 per year.”

Commissioner Randy Krueger said he believes that since other department heads are receiving salary increases, the administrator deserves the same.

“I feel like it ought to be fair across the board,” said Krueger, who added that Burzynski’s salary increase is also justified.

Commissioner John Bertling said the road and bridge administrator and environmental employees were also promised a higher salary, as they were initially hired at a lower rate than they requested. He also added that salary increases for county employees should be at least ten percent.

Bertling said more salary increases would have been possible last year, had residents agreed to a less than one percent tax increase.

“I was voted out of office because I wanted to raise it one percent – less than one percent per $100,000 – and my people couldn’t do third grade math and said it’d be like $100 more on $100,000 taxes when it’s less than $10,” said Bertling.

During the Elections Commission Board meeting on Monday, Fauth said he felt commissioners should have more of a say after budget requests are made – rather than allowing the county judge to make final decisions – and added that last year, Duff’s request for an increase was denied.

“That happened last budget year and I think it’s inappropriate for us to stand by and let it happen again. This budget year, at least let’s get the commissioners involved – the other four members of the commissioners court,” said Fauth.

Vice Chair and County Clerk David Pasket said he agreed wholeheartedly with Fauth, as Duff told the Board she oversees all of the local city and school elections, as well as those for company incorporations, liquor options, road and bridge options and Municipal Utility District (MUD).

“Different counties are set up different ways. There are some city secretaries that want to handle – almost completely – their elections. I don’t know if it’s a compliment or not, but our cities opt for us, Grimes County, to process the whole election,” said Duff.

Attendee Peggy Harrison, who also assisted with county elections for a long period of time, said the election job is tough and agreed the elections administrator and clerk salaries should be raised.

“Becky gets no credit, and I am tired of people telling her she doesn’t do anything. You should go to some of these other counties where elections administrators are treated like people. But not in Grimes County; you’re treated like a dog,” said Harrison.

In her defense, Elections Commission Board Chair Betty Shiflett told The Examiner she could not attend Monday’s meeting, as Vice Chair Pasket not only called Monday’s meeting, but reportedly also scheduled simultaneous liquor license hearings for Shiflett. The county judge added that Duff is already being paid more than other administrators from counties of similar size.

As for the accusation that Duff is being “treated like a dog,” Shiflett said, “I don’t know anyone who treats her like that,” and added, “Her (Duff’s) department operates on well over a $200,000 budget.”

The voter registration budget is $235,558.24.

As for denial of budget requests, Shiflett, who serves as the budget officer, told The Examiner, “Budget requests are made by all departments and hearings are held in August. At this time, the commissioners review the request and decide which request they recommend to be allowed. Obviously, Mr. Fauth was not there or he would have heard the discussion and the recommendations. If a request is denied, the Commissioners Court made the decision.”

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