County takes questions on VA activities

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The Pecos County Commissioners’ Court met in regular session on Monday, Aug. 28, where they held a public hearing on the proposed 2018 Pecos County budget.

County Clerk Liz Chapman began the hearing by stating the 2018 budget was very similar to the previous year’s. 

Pecos County’s tax rate was listed as 0.799 per one-hundred-dollar valuation.

Following a brief description of the budget, Judge Joe Shuster called for public comment. Citizen Oscar Hernandez stepped forward to address the court, and requested that the commissioners table the budget for the Pecos County Veteran Affairs Department.

“I’d like to request that the department’s budget be tabled, or put on hold, until that department can be evaluated,” Hernandez said.

“My issue is that the individual managing that office may not be in the office for three or four days a week,” Hernandez continued. “A lot of veterans that I’ve talked to have not received the services that they are requesting.”

Hernandez went on to explain that many veterans have reported having to take care of issues on their own. At times, they have to go out of town to Odessa, Big Spring, El Paso, and even Waco to find the help they need.

“From what I understand in talking to the individual running the office, she does transport people to mainly Odessa and Big Spring,” Hernandez said. “I don’t believe that she should be providing transportation. The county participates in Trax, and Trax will transport veterans to Big Spring and other facilities at no cost.”

Hernandez said that in terms of offering services to veterans, transportation was not a priority. He stated that other community members or Trax could provide this service.

Hernandez also noted the individual in question attended only a few veteran events, and scheduled even fewer.

Following Hernandez’s presentation, Judge Shuster explained it wasn’t feasible to put the budget on hold for one department.

“Under State law, we have so many days to be able to bring this budget to the public,” Shuster said. “We are supposed to finish and adopt this budget by Sept. 15. That’s about two and a half weeks.”

Shuster stressed the importance of finishing the budget in a timely manner, but offered another solution.

“If you’re asking this court to study the veteran’s office, we can do that,” Shuster said. “But to put a budget that affects the whole county on hold, I don’t want to put the county in harm’s way because there is a process that we have to go through. And if you stop the process, then you have to re-advertise; if we have to re-advertise because we have stopped the process, it will put us past Sept. 30. If we go past Sept. 30, we revert back to the budget for the year before, and its effective tax rate. It becomes a mess.”

Shuster stated they could investigate the department and make changes to any insufficiencies without holding the budget.

After more discussion, Hernandez expressed that he would like to submit a formal request to have the court address the issue during an upcoming Commissioners’ Court meeting. Shuster stated that his mentioning it during the hearing was sufficient, and that the court would add it to an agenda in the very near future.

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