Jan. 3, 1995

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Galindo hoping to curb county spending

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By Jack King
Staff Writer

PECOS, Jan. 3, 1995 - For Reeves County, the issue is money - or more accurately, a lack of it
- county Judge Jimmy Galindo said today.

Galindo, who was sworn into office Monday and began his first official
day of work today, said that since 1992, the county has been spending
more than it's been taking in.

"In 1991 Reeves County's General Fund had a positive balance of
$296,246. In 1992, the county spent $135,036 more than it took. In '93,
it spent $156,377 more, in '94, $273,709 more, and, in '95 it is
projected to spend $396,453 more," Galindo said.

"Last year County Judge Mike Harrison said the General Fund would show
only a negative balance of $195,453, but he was counting on a direct
transfer of $200,000 from the Law Enforcement Center into the General
Fund to lessen that amount," he said.

"The (U.S.) Bureau of Prisons has said that, under federal General
Accounting Office regulations, that direct transfer is not allowed, and
Harrison later backed off that plan. A truer figure for the negative
balance is $396,453," he said.

Asked why the county got into the habit of deficit spending, Galindo
said the former administration didn't see its spending that way.

"The explanation they provided is that they were not actually operating
in the red, since they were taking money from the Reserve Fund to
replace money coming out of the General Fund," he said.

"But what that was doing was effectively depleting our reserves. In 1991
Reeves County had a reserve account of $11.1 million. Now, if we don't
reverse some of the trends established by the 1995 budget adopted last
year, by the end of 1995, we will have a reserve fund of about $120,000.
Essentially, we'll be broke," he said.

"A distinction needs to be drawn about Reeves County's budget," Galindo

"We actually have three distinct budgets, a General Fund budget, a Roads
and Bridges fund budget and the LEC budget. The Roads and Bridges budget
and the LEC budget show positive balances, but the General Fund is in
bad shape," he said.

Reeves County's last tax rate increase was in 1991, when the rate was
set at its current 57.9 cent per $100 valuation. It was raised from a
57.5 cent rate after the creation of the Reeves County Hospital District.

The two previously had been combined, and the 85 cent tax rate for both
was just under the maximum allowed under state law. Together, county and
hospital district taxes are a combined 93 cents per $100 valuation for
fiscal 1995.

The combined tax rate (county, city, school, hospital) for Pecos is
among the highest in the state and has been seen as a deterrent in the
effort to attract new businesses here.

Harrison has said there is little the county can do to economize, since
county offices have already been cut to the bone. Galindo said he both
agrees and disagrees with the statement.

"Maybe county office have been cut to the bone, but there are still
areas where we can rethink the mission of some offices and where we can
consolidate," he said.

"I don't think, at this point, a tax increase is the answer," he added.

"I will not vote to raise taxes, not when there are alternatives such as
consolidation and restructuring available," he said.

Galindo said the two areas where consolidation or restructuring would be
move effective are in the County Court At Law and the Reeves County
Juvenile Detention Center.

"We currently pay the County court At Law Judge (Lee Green) $52,000 for
his services. On top of that, we pay a county administrator, the County
Judge, $32,500. That's $85,000," he said.

"in Ward County they spend $34,000 for one county judge to carry out
both duties. In Pecos County the spend $38,000 for a county judge to do
both jobs. And these are counties that are very comparable to Pecos,
with very similar populations, climates and economics," he said.

"Why are we spending over $85,000 to have the two offices? If we were a
high growth county, like some in South Texas it could be justified, but
we're not, in fact, in the last several years we've been in a decline,
and we need to economize," he added.

Some critics have said that Galindo's proposal to eliminate the office
of County Court At Law judge is a political ploy. The move would, in
effect, consolidate power between the County Judge and the County
Attorney, critics say.

"The issue here is money," Galindo replies. "Do we want to raise taxes?
I will refuse to do so as long as there are other alternatives."

Unlike the County Court At Law office, at the Juvenile Detention Center,
Galindo doesn't so much want to eliminate an agency as have it redefine,
or more clearly define, its mission, he said.

"It's state that the mission of the Juvenile Detention Center is to
house Reeves County juveniles and take some from out of county. But in
the last eight months of 1994, the Center housed only three-to-four
detainees on the average," he said.

"In the last two months of the year that number went up to between 9 and
11, but these were out-of-county detainees," he said.

"The county's contribution from the General Fund to the Juvenile
Detention Center is about $273,000. Does it make sense to spend $273,000
to house 2 to 3 juveniles?" he said.

IN the last two months of the year, the Reeves County Juvenile Board
recommended raising the Center's per diem rate for out of county
juveniles to $70 a day times $365, that comes to $229,950 a year. That's
still less than the county payment of $273,000," he said.

"Furthermore, the Center only has twelve beds. If you house nine out of
county detainees there on a regular basis, that leaves only three beds
for Reeves County juveniles. If we had a sudden increase in juvenile
crime, we would have to ask those counties to move their inmates," he

The Juvenile Detention Center provides jobs for nine people, but it
needs to more clearly define its mission, Galindo said.

"We need to decide if it's going to be a place where we house
out-of-county juveniles for money or if it's going to primarily concern
it-self with Reeves County Juveniles. And if it's going to do one or the
other, what kind of services is it going to need to supply. At the very
least, it needs to become self-sustaining," he said.

If Reeves County eliminated the County Court At Law position, for
$53,500 and could get the Juvenile Detention Center to show an increase
for at least $230,000 in revenues that could save $283,450 from the
projected $396,000 negative balance in the General Fund, Galindo said.

There may still a number of unanswered questions about this course of
action, however.

Harrison said last year that the $250,000 deficit in the Sheriff's
Department contributed in large part to the General Fund deficit.

The $250,000 loss results from the fact that the BOP has refused to
house prisoners in Reeves County Jail following allegations of beatings
there after an LEC riot in 1993, the former county judge said.

"The figures do speak for themselves. In 1993, the Sheriff's Office got
$717,000 for housing Federal prisoners. As of November 1994, it received
$423,000," Galindo said.

"I can't say why it is sustaining the losses. But, if the losses in
revenue comes from BOP's refusal to house prisoners here after those
allegations, then I would say the course of action ought to include
several things," he said.

"First ask BOP what the problems are and find out what they want done.
Second, ask who was on staff at the time of the alleged beatings. Then
decide if you're going to fire them or retrain them. If you're going to
retrain them decide what you need to retrain them in. Is it riot
control, cultural sensitivity, the legal use of force? What?

"Then keep negotiating and keep negotiating and keep negotiating until
you get a `Yes' from BOP, because we do want to offer this service to
them," he said.
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324 S. Cedar, Box 2057, Pecos TX 79772
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