Val Verde County

Following Wednesday’s county commissioners court meeting, the court began looking at the proposed county budget allotments for the county’s departments.

Val Verde County Judge Lewis G. Owens Jr. reviewed each of the county departments’ budgets and asking the county department head, if he or she was present, if they had any comment about the budget as it had been prepared. He also revealed he will ask the court later to cut one position from the staff of Justice of the Peace Pct. 2 Antonio Faz III.

He began with the County Clerk Generosa “Janie” Gracia-Ramon, who said she wanted more time to review her budget and said she would make further comments during the court’s next budget workshop on Aug. 21.

District Clerk Joann Cervantes said she did not see a separate line item she had requested for postage.

Owens suggested increasing Cervantes’ overall office supply budget by $3,500 instead of creating a separate line item, and the court unanimously approved the measure.

In discussion of the budgets proposed for the county’s four justices of the peace, JP Pct. 1 Roberto Castillo said he was fine with the numbers proposed.

When he moved on to take up the budget for the office of JP Pct. 2 Antonio Faz III, Owens said, “The discussion that I had with him, just to be perfectly clear, was that looking at the numbers, I would recommend to the court that we cut one individual from his budget and not fund one, but I would rather for him to be here if the court’s going to make that decision or if we’re going to talk about it.”

JP Pct. 3 Pat Cole was not present when the judge asked about her budget, but joined the meeting later.

JP Pct. 4 Hilda Lopez Castillo said she had no requests for changes to her budget.

Owens then presented the court with statistics he said he had previously requested from the justices of the peace on magistration of misdemeanor and felony criminal cases, administrative hearings, warrants issued, civil, debt claims, small claims, evictions, citations, tickets, inquests, mental health, juvenile detention, Ignition Interlocks and emergency protective orders (EPOs).

“What I did was, I came up with a total for all (those), and these were for Fiscal Year 2017-2018,” Owens said.

He said Precinct 1 had a total of 2,195, Precinct 2 had a total of 1,973, Precinct 3 had a total of 2,017, and Precinct 4 had a total of 1,652.

“And if you divide that number by the number of personnel, Precinct 1, per person in the office, worked 731 of those cases, Precinct 2 worked 394, Precinct 3 worked 504, and Precinct 4 worked 505. That was my logic on the Precinct 2 (cut), but we’ll deal with that when he (Faz) shows up,” Owens said.

The county judge said he also requested from “a JP” the total civil and criminal cases worked between October 2017 through 2018.

“When we come up to the court and we say we have a lot of cases, a lot of cases pending, cases that were added during that time period, Precinct 1 had 1,392, Precinct 2 was 1,528, Precinct 3 was 1,650, Precinct 4 was 1,430. By precinct, if you go by percentages, how many they disposed of, Precinct 1 disposed of 46 percent of their cases, new cases; Precinct 2 was 50 percent, Precinct 3 was 70 percent, Precinct 4 was 95 percent, that they disposed of,” Owens said.

He noted, “When you add the number of people the four precincts have – Precinct 2 has 33 percent of the people, and they did 21 percent of the new cases. Precinct 3 has 26 percent of the people but they did 29 percent of new cases, and then Precinct 1 and 4 both have 20 percent of individuals, but Precinct 1 did 25 percent of cases and Precinct 4 did 18 (percent).”

He also broke down the numbers by cases worked by persons in each JP office: He said Precinct 1 did 215 cases per individual in the office, Precinct 2 did 155 cases per individual, Precinct 3 did 289 cases, and Precinct 4 did 328 cases.

“I’ve had JPs ask for more personnel, and I’m bringing this up, because I’m sure we’ll get in a conversation about this in two weeks, but these numbers don’t lie. If you’re sitting there looking at how many cases you’re disposing of, your case load will grow if you’re not disposing of cases, and it is what it is,” Owens said.

The court then turned to the county court-at-law, and Owens noted County Court-At-Law Judge Sergio Gonzalez’s salary had been raised to the state minimum for the position.

“You will see . . . that he (Gonzalez) did get the largest raise, either by percentage or dollars, but our hands are tied. The state set it up, and that’s just the way it’s going to be,” Owens said.

In the county attorney’s office, Owens said there would be an $1,850 increase to the base salary of the second assistant county attorney, to bring that position in line with the district attorney’s second assistant.

The court unanimously approved the increase.

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