The Panola County Commissioners Court on Tuesday unanimously voted to exclude a proposed pay raise in next year’s budget for the district court coordinator for the 123rd District Court.
After the discussion and vote, the commissioners approved the previously proposed budget with a tax rate of 0.46525 per $100 valuation. The tax rate represents a decrease of 18.73 percent from last year’s Panola County tax rate of 0.57249 per $100 value.
With an increase in property values, the tax on an average homestead will decrease from $481 a year to $401, a drop of 16.6 percent.
The budget request before the court was to increase coordinator Erin Johnson’s rate of pay from $44,000 per year to $47,000 annually. Judge LeAnn Kay Rafferty, whose 123rd District Court serves both Panola and Shelby counties, budgeted the 9 percent pay hike for the position in her budget.
Regarding a request for a comment from Rafferty regarding the decision, Johnson returned a call to the Watchman late Tuesday afternoon saying Rafferty “did not feel comfortable making a comment” at this time.
Pct. 4 County Commissioner Dale LaGrone said he took exception to the request.
“I do have a problem,” he said regarding the request during a public hearing on the proposed budget for the upcoming year.
“I’m not saying she’s not doing a good job,” LaGrone said. “She gets a raise on merit, gets a raise from Shelby County, but she’s making more than we’re making as elected officials.”
LaGrone said the pay for the position has “been out of kilter” for several years.
“The way I look at it, it’s really not a full time job here and it’s not a full time job for Shelby County,” he said. “I just want to be fair for the citizens of Panola County.”
When asked in a phone interview if Johnson felt the job was full time or not, she declined to comment.
LaGrone said he did not want Panola County to pay any more than Shelby County did.
With Judge David Anderson joining the vote on the budget amendment to not allow the pay raise, the amendment passed 4-0, with Pct. 2 Commissioner David Cole abstaining on the vote. LaGrone, Pct. 1 Commissioner Billy Alexander and Pct. 3 Commissioner Craig Lawless each voted for the amendment not to allow the proposed pay raise.