The hiring of an assistant court coordinator for the 35th District Court Friday prompted a discussion of pay levels for similar positions in the county’s three courts.
“Their duties vary somewhat, but they have a lot of stress and pressure,” County Judge Ray West said at a special meeting of Brown County Commissioners Court. “This is an issue we do need to resolve before we finally approve a budget.”
That vote is scheduled for Sept. 28, when commissioners are also planning to approve the tax rate. A second public hearing on that rate was held at Friday’s meeting, and no one spoke.
West said the tax rate is unchanged from the previous year, but the effective rate is up by .42 of a percent because of higher property values. That will result in the county receiving approximately $16,000 more revenue from property taxes.
Judge Steve Ellis asked commissioners to approve the hiring of Cheryl Throckmorton as assistant coordinator for his 35th District Court at the exit salary of the prior employee, $26,250. But Ellis said the duties of the position suggest a salary in the $30,000 range would be more appropriate.
Commissioners voted 3-1 to approve the hire, with West and Commissioners Steve Adams and Richard Gist in favor. Commissioner Joel Kelton, who said in the discussion prior to the vote that the established base salary for the position had been set around $24,000, was opposed. Larry Traweek was absent.
“We have a lot of great employees at the courthouse, but these are busy ladies who do a great job,” Ellis told the court about the coordinators.
West said he has been involved in discussions with the judges in the three courts - himself, Ellis and County Court at Law Judge Frank Griffin – about the coordinators’ salaries, and they agree that the levels should be addressed.
“You’re the ones who have the power to do something about it,” Ellis told commissioners. “We need to be good stewards of the public’s dollar, and you are, but these are important jobs.”
To illustrate his point, Ellis brought stacks of paperwork that court coordinators are required to produce, saying that each document has critical legal consequences.
“They do more than set the court docket, but they do that too,” Ellis said.
Commissioners have scheduled a budget workshop to begin at 10 a.m. Monday after its 9 a.m. regular meeting.
In other business, the court approved a resolution applying for a grant from the Indigent Defense Grant Program. West and Ellis described the purpose of the program as providing funds to pay attorney fees for indigent defendants.