County budget should cover first murder trial

Official seeks change in layoff salary plan

CAMERONĀ­— After months of planning concerning the Brandon Cotton murder trial, set to start in October, Milam County thinks it has enough in its 2013-14 budget to cover expenses.

County Judge Dave Barkemeyer told a regular meeting of county commissioners Monday the budget should take care of the estimated $300,000 in additional expenses for the trial.

The new budget contains a 3- cent tax increase—from 60 to 63 cents—and four layoffs of county employees.

Barkemeyer said the possibility exists that the county could actually go into the next fiscal year with a small surplus, depending on the actual final price tag of the trial.

There will be another murder trial later. Tanner Baker is also charged in connection with the April 25, 2011, slaying of San Gabriel resident Sandra “Sandy” Phillips.

SALARY—County Clerk Barbara Vansa raised an issue of an “early retirement” in her department which she maintained has erroneously found its way into the budget.

Vansa said when an early retirement package was being prepared during budget negotiations it was assumed a senior member of the county clerk’s department would accept it.

“She has since told me that she’s not going anywhere (not retiring),” Vansa said.

But Vansa said the savings represented by that anticipated retirement made their way into the budget.

“What’s going to happen now is I will have to let someone else go,” Vansa said. “And the salary savings won’t be the same.”

She asked that the issue be resolved before the final budget is approved by the commissioners court.

“I believe that it’s going to get resolved,” she said.

“I think it’s a shame there’s more of a focus on this murder trial than on our own employees,” Vansa said.

(See County Judge Barkemeyer’s column on the new budget on page 5A).

MEETINGS— Barkemeyer said “community communication” meetings throughout the county were to have begun Wednesday, Aug. 14, with one at 6:30 p.m. set in the Buckholts Community Center.

Others, all at 6:30 p.m., have been scheduled in the following locations.

Thursday—Davilla Community Center.

Monday—Milam County Courthouse, Cameron.

Tuesday—Milano Fire Station.

Aug. 22—Rockdale One-Stop Center.

Aug. 26—Gause Volunteer Fire Department.

Aug. 27—Thorndale Chamber of Commerce Conference Room.

Public hearings will be held in the courthouse at 9 a.m. Aug. 26 and Sept. 4 and the budget and tax rate will be on the agenda for the commissioners court meeting at 10 a.m. Sept. 9.

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