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County to renegotiate terms with law enforcement

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Stated focus will be on recruitment, retention

The Hays County commissioners court discussed and officially appointed Hays County Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe, Hays County Commissioner Lon Shell, Chief Deputy Mike Davenport and Hays County Assistant General Counsel Jordan Powell to the collective bargaining team representing Hays County in order to renegotiate the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Hays County Law Enforcement Association at the regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday. According to discussion in court, Hays County is having difficulty filling law enforcement positions, particularly for Correctional Officers.

Hays County Law Enforcement Association and Hays County will negotiate the CBA to set the terms and conditions of employment, including: wages, working hours and conditions, employee benefits, grievance and arbitration procedures, limitations on strikes, the union's rights and responsibilities and management's rights and responsibilities.

Ingalsbe said she knows that the law enforcement staffing shortage isn’t isolated to Hays County but is a nationwide issue.

“Even throughout [all the departments in] our entire Hays County, we are struggling and have been for a while. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of addressing salaries and wages for all of our employees,” Ingalsbe said. “Unfortunately this is just something that’s happened throughout, I guess, these last few years. And I know people want to stop mentioning the corona virus and all that — the pandemic that happened, but it really did put a big hit on everyone.”

Shell said the county puts a lot of focus into recruitment and retention.

“We do this contract every four years now,” Shell said. “Every other year, we do a re-up on pay only to try to keep up with that market, because the market does change very quickly. I would say our biggest challenge has been and will be a focus in this is Corrections. That has been one of the hardest jobs to both recruit and retain.”

Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra said he was at the Greater San Marcos Partnership’s Economic Summit, and the speaker was Keith Phillips, who was the former Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, San Antonio and El Paso Branches assistant vice president and senior economist, and the topic was on predictions for the state of the economy in 2024.

“He said when the feds move the interest rate, it takes nine months to actually see the effects of those decisions,” Becerra said. “I thank Ms. [Hays County HR Director Shari] Miller. She’s here as one of our key components in the salary update survey [and] all the work we did, and many others. The list is long with who was involved in bringing our county coworkers up to a new level of pay, a new program and a new level of assessment — for their benefit. And I will say that like the fed said, [if the] interest rate hikes or drops, you won’t see [results] for nine months on the ground … I will say that we have addressed this as a governmental body, but the results aren’t quite in yet.”

Commissioner Walt Smith said he read a report that said the biggest factor in staffing issues for law enforcement positions, other than the pandemic, occurred after the death of George Floyd. He said the report pointed to a 19% hike in retirement in law enforcement after that occurred.

“I’m very proud to say that in Hays County, we’ve actually been a beneficiary of that because we have officers in our Sheriff’s Department that started during that time period. I don’t want to say that we’ve begged, borrowed and stealed, but we’ve recruited from surrounding agencies. … We’ve listened to several of those new constables in court over the last few weeks telling us that they’re coming from other agencies to work in our agencies. We have had a number of retirements also that have chosen to stay in the county from the Sheriff’s Office. And with the hard work that Commissioner Ingalsbe and Commissioner Shell did, under the previous CBA to allow for direct transferability, those officers at retirement have decided to stay on with the county — a number of them — and move into the individual constable’s offices out of the Sheriff’s Office. So I think some of those incremental changes that we’ve done over time, to your point judge, they will have more impact than we know.”

You can find more information on the salary study at this link: sanmarcosrecord. com/news/ salary-study-offers-county- new-direction.

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666