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Sheriff’s officers submit petition for higher pay

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WAXAHACHIE - A 30-percent salary increase for Ellis County Sheriff's Department looms for this November's election ballot after a petition with 7,058 signatures was submitted Aug. 7 to the commissioners court.

'We needed 5,169 and got more than 7,000 in 45 days, said Charles Kellis, president of the Ellis County Sheriff's Officers Association, after petition was taken to County Judge Al Cornelius' office. 'That's real good. If we had more time we could have had more sign.'

The completed petition drive opens three options, Kellis said.

'They (the commissioners) can grant the raise, negotiate with the five-citizen panel or allow it to go to a popular vote,' he said.

Considering how stingy the Commissioners Court has been acting this year, the issue isn't likely to be resolved without a vote.

'Things are extremely tight,' Judge Al Cornelius told the Ellis County Press in talking about cost overruns on the county's three major building projects, an agenda item during Monday's commissioners meeting.

'We're certainly struggling, trying to keep taxes as low as possible,' Judge Cornelius said when asked to respond to a rumor Ellis County was overspending its budget by $3 million, reportedly causing commissioners to consider a 30-percent per capita property tax increase.

Judge Cornelius said he isn't aware of any report or information that would have caused the rumor 'We've not overspent our budget,' he said, 'but we will be exhorting people to keep a tight reign on spending. We're still crunching numbers.'

On the question of a possible property tax increase next year, 'There could be,' the judge said. 'At this point we don't have all our numbers, but I'm not discounting that there won't be a tax increase.'

Judge Cornelius said Ellis County's property tax ranks 'in the bottom 10 percent of all counties.'

If approved by voters this November, the pay raise will go into effect at the first of next year. The raise reportedly could result in a three-cent tax hike, in effect adding $15 on the tax bill for property valued at $50,000.

Kellis first raised the issue of 30-percent raises at the June 26 commissioners court meeting in answer to the high turnover of sheriff's department personnel and costly training of new employees.

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