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Commissioners approve raises for elected officials

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Liberty County Commissioners met Tuesday, July 12, to approve pay raises for all local elected officials for the FY2023 by a vote of 3 to 1. The issue was initially considered at the June 28 meeting of the court, when a motion by Pct. 2 Commissioner Greg Arthur failed for lack of a second by other members.

That increase was expected to be sizable if approved, raising the annual wages of commissioners by $17,620 for a salary of $92,500 in the next fiscal year, while the car allowance would have been increased to $25,000 annually.

In Tuesday’s decision, the court opted for a smaller increase for commissioners and the county judge; however, they did decide to increase all members of the court, as well as the county clerk, district clerk, county treasurer, and tax assessor-collector to an annual salary of $83,725 per year.

That raise is just over 5% for the clerks, treasurer, and tax assessor, up from $79,738 in the current fiscal year.

The more significant percentage increases came from the court, which, according to County Judge Jay Knight, had failed to increase their salaries at times in the past adequately.

“The commissioners did receive greater than 5%. Based on last year, they did not receive 12% increases like everybody else did. That’s one thing we make a mistake doing, guys,” Knight continued, “so I know our first raise since 2008 was in 2016, our second raise for commissioner’s court was in 2019, and here we’re fixing to be 2022.”

Knight pointed out that every official would again receive a pay increase over the previous year, while it was the first for the court in some time.

Knight will receive the largest percentage increase in his salary, at just over 20%. That salary will increase by $14,174 over the current pay of $69,551. He will also continue to receive $11,735 a year as the Juvenile Judge and a stipend of $25,000 per year from the state as the chief administrator for Liberty County.

The largest salary countywide will continue to be that of Sheriff Bobby Rader, with $89,250 per year, as well as an increase to his step pay, certificate pay, and longevity pay, which is only awarded to elected law enforcement officers in the county.

Commissioners also approved increasing the car allowance for all that receive one to $25,000 in the new budget, up 25%.

Knight believes the tax rate could go down again this year when the court sets that number.

“Regardless, we’re still the cheapest act in town. Go look at your cities, your ISDs; we’re still lower than all of those,” said Knight.

At that time, Commissioner Pct. 1 Bruce Karbowski spoke on the pay increase before making the motion to improve the increase.

“After looking at the last one in came in here to court with, I was not in favor of it at all. I felt that it was unjust and quite a bit of raise for the taxpayers. This new one I am more in favor for, and I would even go as far as to make the motion to approve this new salary,” said Karbowski.

Arthur and Commissioner Pct 3 David Whitmire joined him in favor of the increase, while Commissioner Pct. 4 Leon Wilson voted against the pay hike.

Salaries for judges and the district attorney are set by the state.