Presidio County to implement new employee pay schedule in January 2023

PRESIDIO COUNTY — After a long process of data gathering and deliberation, Presidio County is set to implement its first employee pay schedule in January 2023. The schedule will set standardized minimums for new hire wages in each department as well as a formula for determining how much higher-ranking employees should earn. 

The discussion began at a meeting on October 19 —  coincidentally, at the same meeting, both Presidio County Sheriff Danny Dominguez and Deputy Joel Nuñez petitioned the court to increase their department’s wages to combat turnover. The heated discussion that followed — and the fact that the court had deliberated raising wages at the Presidio County Jail earlier that year — led the court to agree that wages should be set uniformly and not on a department-by-department basis. 

A committee composed of County Auditor Patty Roach, County Treasurer Frances Garcia, Presidio County Sheriff Secretary Shanna Elmore and Precinct 1 Commissioner Brenda Silva Bentley worked together to devise the proposed plan. The team compared pay schedules from Brewster County, Sul Ross and other regional entities and averaged them out in order to arrive at a proposed system of base pay for Presidio County’s employees.

The committee ultimately proposed a 15% difference in wages between starting wages for employees with no experience and “midpoint” employees, followed by a 15% difference between those employees and senior staff. They suggested that individual department heads have 6% of wiggle room to increase pay for new hires who start with experience or a pertinent educational background. 

County Judge Cinderela Guevara asked if the proposed schedule included longevity pay for employees who have made a lifelong career serving the county. Auditor Patty Roach explained that the current schedule did not, but that neighboring Brewster County has a separate procedure for adding longevity incentives to base pay. “This type of design is really easy to administer,” she explained. “Making changes is really simple, moving people is really simple –– it has maximum flexibility.”

Presidio County Sheriff Secretary Shanna Elmore chimed in to voice her support for a longevity pay system after a brief discussion on whether incentives should be based on cumulative service to the county — for employees who leave their positions and come back — or consecutive years of service. “I do feel that consideration of longevity is an important part of setting the salary schedule,” she said. 

County Clerk Florcita Zubia brought up a case study from within her department — what about an employee who started her position with nine years of experience from a different county?

Roach explained that the schedule was primarily intended to preserve a hierarchy within departments and prevent individual department heads from having to make their case for raises to the court. “This is just a suggested plan — it’s not going to be perfect and not everyone is going to be happy, but it does attempt to be as fair as possible,” Roach said. 

Judge Elect Joe Portillo suggested that the county develop a separate procedure for examples like Zubia’s who don’t fit within a neat rubric. “It is difficult and you can’t address every situation — I think what you can do is always leave language in there that will allow commissioners court to address one-offs,” he said. 

Guevara ultimately moved to accept the pay schedule as presented, and to implement it in January 2023 to keep things uniform for new elected officials entering office in a few weeks. The commissioners approved both measures unanimously. “I think this is excellent — I think this is a good start,” she said.