Parker County commissioners listened, but took no action Monday to approve or deny a request from Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Lynn Johnson for a full-time clerk.
Johnson’s department is the only county department to request another employee this budget year, according to County Judge Mark Riley.
Johnson told the court that the extra position is needed because a lot more tickets are filed in her court than in the other JP courts, as checked on three separate occasions since she was hired.
She said dealing with the tickets is time-consuming.
“With each ticket you’ve got at least three or four contacts with the person, and that’s for about 50 percent of the tickets,” she said. ”With the others you may have eight or nine contacts with that particular defendant.”
Johnson said her four clerks are not able to fulfill their state-mandated functions — like having trials — due to the overwhelming workload.
“They aren’t fulfilling their judicial responsibilities,” she said. “It’s like they’ve added 100 more miles of road to your precinct, and you have to do it with the same number of employees.”
Johnson also said her collections clerk was battling an illness and would need some time off.
Johnson’s office filed an average of 300 tickets per month in 2010, she said, but is now filing an average of 538 per month based on numbers recorded from January through July.
The associated average monthly revenue, she said, has also increased — from about $35,000 to almost $70,000.
“We’ve had double our cases, double our revenues, so hopefully, we’re doing some things right,” she said.
A basic clerk earns a $34,739 salary, Johnson told the court.
Riley estimated the county’s total cost between $50,000 to $55,000, including benefits.
“In my mind the only way this can be done is if we felt like her revenue had increased enough to pay for it, over and above what we’ve budgeted,” he said, “and I don’t have that number right in front of me.”
“All the other revenue [County Auditor Mike Rhoten] is trying to tweak, to make sure we haven’t overlooked something. So it’s not like we have that, at this stage of the game, just to move over.”
Commissioner Dusty Renfro said he would check county records to see if Johnson’s office was generating enough of a revenue increase to cover the cost of a full-time employee.
“It looks to me like the average monthly revenue will more than cover the additional salary,” he said.
“I believe so,” Johnson replied, “and I think I’ll have some budget reductions from my collections clerk. She won’t be able to get her salary full time because she won’t be there.”
Johnson also told Renfro that the state and county share the monthly revenues that are collected, with the percentage going to each based on the type of fine.
She said that although her preference is for a full-time employee, she would accept a part-time employee.
Parker County currently has 389 full-time employees and 33 part-time employees, County Spokesman Joel Kertok said.
Of these, 305 full-time employees and 25 part-time employees are paid out of the general fund and 84 full-time employees and 8 part-time employees are paid out of the Road and Bridge Fund.
Riley, Renfro and commissioner George Conley were present for the special budget session. Commissioners Craig Peacock and John Roth were absent.