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Ferris says ‘No’ to increases

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The Ellis County Press

FERRIS - No budget increases. No tax raises. No unnecessarily building expenses. No new vehicles.

With a vow to balance the budget, not raise taxes and improve basic city infrastructure, city council members said they are working to improve Ferris for the citizens.

Council members were outraged and taken aback by proposed budget amounts from city department heads at a time when tax revenue is down by $15,000, according to Mayor Jimmie Birdwell.

'It's time to do something for our downtown and residents,' Councilman Victor Burnett said.

'Last year's budget was for friends, but this time it's for the public. It's time to do what's right. I'm going to do what's in my heart.'

Most department heads requested increases in their salaries, their employees' salaries and for new equipment.

The municipal court supervisor, Carlene Baker, had requested a 14 percent pay raise for two court clerk positions, according to proposed budget worksheets.

Baker wrote, the deputy court clerk I deserves a

payraise of at least $13 an hour because 'she is a state certified court translator.'

She also proposed raising the deputy court clerk II pay to more than $11 an hour 'to bring her salary in line with other office personnel.'

Councilman Jessie Hernandez said city employees are asking to get paid more money for less work.

He said the court clerks in Ennis, Waxahachie, Red Oak and Midlothian were doing more work for less pay.

To keep her salary competitive with her counterparts in other cities, Baker is asking for a 13.27 percent or more than $4,000 pay raise for her position.

The raise would, 'bring my salary in line with everyone that is over a department. I have several years of experience in this position,' Baker stated.

Hernandez said the Ennis court clerk makes $28,000 annually and a court clerk in Waxahachie earns $26,000 a year.

'We handle all traffic and ordinance tickets,' Baker said.

'I think two people could handle the work,' Burnett said.

Baker said the city needed all three court employees to run the day to day operations, noting it sometimes gets busy.

Fred Pontley, a Ferris city councilman and City of Ennis Police Officer, said Ennis processes approximately 1,200 tickets per month with the staff of one full-time clerk and an assistant.

Ferris processes about 572 tickets a month with a court administrator and two clerks.

Mayor Jimmie Birdwell defended the municipal court employees, by saying there were new laws being passed constantly requiring the staff to keep updated - they deal with lawyers, and processing the tickets.

'There is a whole lot more going on in the court than processing tickets,' Birdwell said.

According to Burnett, the court administrator does not need a raise, because she is not a department head.

He said, people think when they get another person working under them, they are automatically a department head.

There are only three recognized department heads in Ferris - the police chief, the fire chief and the public works director.

'We can't fix nothing if we give all the money in salaries,' Burnett said

'If we cut back somewhere we will have money to fix roads and construct new buildings.'

Burnett and Hernandez said they want to build a municipal government center to house the fire department, the police department, city hall and council chambers.

'At a budget workshop we should be able to pick and choose who we bring up to speed (for salaries),' said Burnett.

Ferris Police and Fire Dispatcher Sue Reed has served the city for more than 21 years, but makes significantly less than other clerical staff in the city, according to Burnett.

He said he felt because of her years of service she should be eligible for a 10 percent raise, bringing her annual pay to at least $25,000.

Ferris Police Chief Jeff Cottongame argued all his dispatchers should receive a raise.

'They (the dispatchers) felt like they were not treated fairly,' Cottongame said. 'Last year the court clerks made more than the dispatchers.'

Many council members agree some streets around Ferris are in great need of repair with new subdivisions coming into town.

Burnett is one of the most vocal supporters for repairing roads, especially in the northwest portion of the city.

'I want to fix the streets too.' Mayor Pro-Tem Scott Born said, 'Just don't miss Birch Street.'

'Let's fix them all. Let's cut the fat off the hog. Fix the roads,' Burnett said.

The streets department has asked for $225,000 to repair streets, bridges and walls. $125,000 of the proposed amount was a carryover from the previous year's budget, which was not used.

Hernandez and Burnett stressed it was time for city officials to balance the budget so the citizens of Ferris would not be burdened with a tax rate increase.

Burnett said, 'I would encourage residents to request a copy of the proposed city budget to see for themselves how much the various departments are requesting for the size of this town.'

Budget workshops are continuing this week, and the final adjusted budget will be voted on by council members soon.

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