Commissioners Court meets for update on ERA program, discuss raising employee salaries

Sierra Martin | Managing Editor

The Hays County Commissioners Court met on March 8, 2022, to discuss several agenda items, including an update to the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program, an agreement with the Grimes County Jail and addressing inequities with county employee salary.

The Government’s Office of the United States and Canada has awarded the Certificate of Achievement and Excellence in Hays County for its annual comprehensive financial report for the fiscal year, ending September 30, 2020.

A proclamation was made recognizing Rosalinda Moreno, a Gary Job Corps employee, for her service to the community. The court proclaimed March 11, 2022, the day she retires, as Rosalinda Moreno day.

An update was provided to commissioners regarding the ERA program from Hays County Director of Countywide Operations, Tammy Crumley, who said they were proud of its recent progress.

“Last court session, we had $1.2 million that had been dispersed for the ERA Program. As of yesterday, we have $1.5 million that has been dispersed,” said Crumley. “That’s an additional $375,000 that we’ve been able to process in about 13 working days.”

According to Crumley, currently, there are approximately 358 open tickets (or applications). Of those, 200 are waiting on citizen responses, 65 are under auditor’s review, and 91 are under caseworker review.

On Wednesday, the new project manager began training and meeting staff to take over the program. Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra said that receiving updates on the ERA will remain on the agenda until “everything is smooth and taken care of.” 

Commissioners also accepted the 2021 Racial Profiling Report from the Hays County Constable Office of Precinct One and the Hays County Sheriff’s Office. No comment was made regarding the reports. The court also voted to ratify the execution of an Interlocal Cooperation Agreement between Hays County and Grimes County for housing and care of Hays County Corrections inmates. 

Commissioner of Precinct 3, Lon Shell, said that he supports the agreement between Hays and Grimes County Jails due to jail staffing issues.

“I think in the state of Texas, we’re noticing a similar trend, that jails are having a hard time staffing, meeting the jail standards,” said Shell. “Which means that bed space is extremely important right now.”

According to Shell, the county is seeing 25 or more arrests over the weekend, and he thinks it is important to have this agreement with Grimes County just in case the Hays County Jail reaches capacity.

“I know that the Criminal Justice System has been slowed down with COVID and Jury Trials and all of these other reasons that have caused probably a bit of that,” said Shell. But we’re going to see, I think coming into this summer a very urgent situation. And I think the best thing that we can do from our jail side is to do this. To find counties that will allow us to use their space. Because we’re going to need as many as we can to address that issue.”

County Commissioners discussed an action to authorize the Sheriff’s Office to hire a Budget Coordinator at an annual salary of $54,000.

Hays County Auditor Marisol Villarreal-Alonzo said that the salary causes inequity. Villarreal-Alonzo noted that she has employees in her office who have been there for 18 years and make $36,000.

“I know that we are hurting with hiring employees throughout the county,” said Villarreal-Alonzo. “We’ve had our jobs posted for weeks, years and have not been able to hire individuals.”

“We’re concerned that it is causing negative morale around the county, as well as the inequity, that could be a situation where we start losing employees,” said Villarreal-Alonzo.

The Hays County Sheriff Chief Deputy Mike Davenport spoke on why they are pursuing a high salary with the applicant. 

“Our intentions with this is certainly not to create any inequity. The reality in today’s world is we can’t find people to hire as mentioned,” said Davenport.

Sherri Miller, Human Resources Director for Hays County, said that there are inequities in salary throughout the county, and Becerra gave her direction to address them.

“We can do a very thorough in-depth salary analysis of our positions and the employee’s actual salaries,” said Miller. “And I’m going to need the help of every department head and elected official, intuitively, a manager knows what an employee salary should be.”

Becerra said he thinks the county should look at how to raise salaries throughout the county.

“But I think we need to revisit this thing. We find money for all kinds of things,” said Becerra. “I believe we need to find more money for our co-workers.”

The commissioners decided to expand the range of salary for empty position postings throughout the county to try and bring in applicants, and tabled the agenda item until recommendations are made. 

The Hays County Commissioners held this meeting at the Historic County Courthouse located at 111 E San Antonio St, San Marcos, TX 78666. To view live meetings, visit https://hayscountytx.com/commissioners-court/court-video/. Submit public comments at publiccomments@co.hays.tx.us

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