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County Budget Talks Continue

Commissioners heard four presentations today and none of those agencies asked for more funding.
    Several representatives from Wichita County supported agencies say they know the nation's economy is still not in tip- top shape and that's why they're not asking for budget increases from the county.
    That's changed since last year when elected officials asked for and got raises because they hadn't received one in five     That caused quite a controversy with one raise amounting to more than $14 thousand a year.
    Those making presentations were the Wichita County District Attorney, auditor, foster parents' association, and teen court.
    But District Attorney Maureen Shelton did ask for a shuffling of funds to accommodate raises for several of her employees.
    She requested an increase of nearly $45 thousand to be spread among eight of her employees.
    Judge Woody Gossom said the court will consider Shelton's budget proposal because it's budget neutral; as the D.A's office actually saved the county money last year by operating short-handed.
    "Last year her efforts actually produced a savings to the county, so with that and with the new grant money she's bringing in this year of $49,000, it would actually cover all her requests with some leftover," Gossom says.
    During discussion, Commissioner Ray Gonzalez said he didn't think it was necessary to raise prosecutor's salaries in every instance.
    He says that's because many prosecutors work for the county for about two to three years before moving on to bigger cities.
    "Of course, it's more money.  We can't compete against a Tarrant County or Dallas County or Houston.  Their tax base is so much greater and they're going to pay whatever it takes to get them there," Gonzalez says.
    Still, Shelton says it's necessary to raise those salaries so Wichita County can retain the best prosecutors.
    Discussion of elected officials salaries and allowances was also on today's agenda.
    Unlike last year,  there were no requests submitted for raises there, either; though Judge Gossom says commissioners may*receive an increase request from the justices of the peace.
    Gonzalez says any budget increase request is taken very seriously because those increases would more than likely mean higher taxes.
    Judge Gossom says he expects commissioners to vote on county budgets sometime in August.
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