County gets clean audit

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Austin County received a clean audit for 2018-19 an outside auditor reporting during the Aug. 5 session of commissioners court.

“Nothing came to our attention during the audit,” said Wayne Beyer of Beyer Company.

Calling it a “clean opinion,” Beyer gave a review of the budget to the commissioners.

“The majority of departments came in under budget,” he said.

Beyer said the county ended up with $164,000 in reserves, which is an eight-month operating cushion.

“This is a very good financial report. Anyone can tell you have good, conservative budget policies here,” Beyer said.

Commissioner Randy Reichardt was concerned about there being any hidden accounts, such as the one that led to the arrest of former auditor Marcus Pena.

“How are we going to catch a Marcus Pena again,” he asked.

Current County Auditor Billy Doherty assured him that procedures are in place internally to provide more accountability and to assure that funds cannot be embezzled like they were under Pena.

“Moving forward, I’d have to say that Austin County is in better condition than it’s ever been in,” Doherty said.

Raises for Elected officials

The commissioners have proposed raises for themselves and other elected officials to be voted on Aug. 19. Under the proposal, County Judge Tim Lapham would get a $2,320 raise from $58,000 to $60,320 plus a $6,000 travel allowance. The four commissioners would each get an increase of $2,112 to $54,900 plus a $9,000 travel allowance.

Sheriff Jack Brandes would see his salary increase by $2,513 to $65,355. Justices of the peace for precincts 1, 3, and 4 would get raises of $1,793, raising their pay to $46,617 while precinct 2 will go up $984 to $25,572. Constables in precincts 1 and 2 would have their salaries increased $560 to $14,550 and in precincts 3 and 4 the salaries would go up $1,120 to $29,100.

The district clerk, county clerk, tax assessor and county treasurer would get raises of $2,120 to bring their salaries to $55,120. The county court at law judge would get a raise of $38,000 for a salary of $178,000, 60 percent of which is funded by a state supplement. There would be no increase in the district attorney’s salary supplement of $1,200.

Road and bridge report

The Commissioners presented their annual report at the meeting. They collect taxes in two separate accounts, one being FM and Lateral and the other Road and Bridge. The estimated amount of the two funds for 2019 was $4.8 million. The FM&L funds are divided between the commissioners based on the miles of roads in their precincts and the R&B fund is split equally. Any money not spent goes into their respective contingency funds to be used for road repairs.

According to the report, Pct. 1 Commissioner Mark Lamp has a contingency of $225,110, Pct. 2 Commissioner Bobby Rinn has $1,832,659, Pct. 3 Commissioner Randy Reichardt has $1,521,281, and Pct. 4 Commissioner Chip Reed has $406,911.

Each precinct is also receiving various FEMA funds to repair damages from floods and Hurricane Harvey.

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