ANGLETON — While some department heads asked for more personnel, a state-mandated THC quantifying robotic machine for drug testing was among the largest impacts to the county budget for the upcoming year, County Judge Matt Sebesta said after a budget workshop.

Commissioners’ Court met over two days to hear the budget needs of each department. While no action will be taken until commissioners know the tax revenue for the year, each department head had a chance to address the court.

Because of new legislation, the sheriff’s office is asking just over $276,000 for a machine to test THC percentages due to House Bill 1325, a law which encourages hemp production and, as a result, will change the way lower-level marijuana cases are prosecuted.

Sebesta said the court will have to find a way to come up with the money and that Gov. Greg Abbott previously spoke about doing something about unfunded mandates, but “never did anything.”

Additionally, the sheriff’s office requested $65,000 for software that will help the department sort through material in a more efficient way using digital automation. The new software will lessen the amount of time it takes to sort information, Sheriff Charles Wagner said.

Facilities Management Superintendent Dennis Cleveland requested to add a plumber in addition to two maintenance tech positions.

Sebesta said personnel requests were down this year but “one of the things we’re looking at closely is adding personnel.” Sebesta said the county has been very generous in the past, but they’re going to closely examine all personnel requests, adding that this year it might be more difficult.

Cleveland believes a new plumber for the upcoming year will help the worker learn the county when the current plumber retires in a couple of years.

The maintenance department also requested to replace five vehicles that are more than 10 years old and a generator at its facility in the amount of $125,000, Cleveland said during the workshop.

Officials are also considering modifying restrooms at the Brazoria County Fairgrounds, adding an information booth area and re-shading the maintenance building for $95,000.

The county’s population growth is affecting many areas, and Justices of the Peace from precincts 3 and 4 asked for more personnel to deal with the rising civil claims, truancy and small claims cases.

“After three fiscal quarters and seeing the process, we have a need for three full-time clerks, right now,” Pct. 3 Judge Roy Castillo said. “We currently are swamped with civil claims and with the amount of truancy coming in and the amount of small claims, we need some help,” he said.

Sebesta suggested trading two part-time clerks for one full-time employee to accommodate the needs of Castillo.

“One of the things I’m very proud of is we have good department heads and officials that lead their departments,” Sebesta said after the workshop. “We generally do the same things with less people and we will continue to try to do that.”

Since becoming county judge, Sebesta said he has lowered the tax rate by seven cents and will strive to continue to lower it further, taking into account the needs of each department.

Sebesta said each department is progressing very well under the current budget and that if there are ever dire needs, the county will address it mid-year.

“We make sure we don’t have any departments that are lagging below what other counties are paying,” Sebesta said.

The commissioners will formally adopt a budget the second Tuesday of September, Sebesta said.

Additional budget hearings will take place at the Angleton County Courthouse this week, he said.

Courtney Blackann is a reporter for The Facts. Contact her at 979-237-0152.

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"Re-shading the maintenance area" at the fairgrounds? The county should base the budget items based on return for the dollar, not flushing money down commodes training plumbers how to do a job they should already know.

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