Nueces County Commissioners last week approved a new plan proposed by District Attorney Anna Jimenez that could allow for prosecutors and support staff in the office to receive a much-needed boost in pay.
Jimenez presented her proposal to commissioners during the court's Oct. 20 meeting. It involved using funds from the office's asset forfeiture account to supplement the salaries for all District Attorney employees. The idea is to provide a boost in pay for the employees without dipping into the county's general fund.
"We want to be self-sufficient in the (District Attorney's) office, and this fund allows for that," she said.
Jimenez said there is about $305,000 in the asset forfeiture account, which is compiled from money seized in criminal cases and the sale of any confiscated property, such as vehicles or other material items. Usually the district attorney's office receives 20 percent of any cash or property seized by law enforcement, while the agencies keep 80 percent.
Jimenez's proposal is to use about $100,000 of those funds in order to supplement the pay of prosecutors and support staff in her office. She said prosecutor pay varies, but added some prosecutors start off at about $43,000 in annual salary.
The pay, Jimenez said, is often not enough to compensate a staff that is constantly overworked.
"These supplements are in hopes that they won't leave because their salaries are so incredibly low and the workload is so tremendous," she said.
Jimenez's proposal would involve a recommended list of employees who could receive the supplemental pay every quarter that would be presented to the Nueces County Commissioners Court. The court would then have final say on whether to approve the pay at that time or not.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Betty Jean Longoria cautioned Jimenez on making regular use of the fund for salary purposes.
"The only thing I ask is that you're careful with that because, in the future, you're spending money quarter by quarter," Longoria said. "But what happens if the next quarter or whatever there is…a major need for something?"
However, Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Pusley said he applauded Jimenez's effort to give her employees a boost in pay without relying solely on taxpayer funds.
"We've been looking for ways to get those folks more money," he said. "I'm very happy with the plan the district attorney is bringing forward. Those are nice bonuses for those folks and they damn sure deserve it."