TAYLOR COUNTY, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The State of Texas is trying to get Jones or Taylor County to take over responsibilities for Abilene’s veterans cemetery, but so far, neither county wants the deal.
Texas State Veterans General Land Office Representative Dr. John Kelly approached Taylor County commissioners Tuesday morning, proposing the county take on responsibilities by making current cemetery employees, who are contracted through a temp agency by the State, into county employees.
This would mean that if Taylor County accepts the proposal, they would be responsible for HR and administrative duties for the cemetery, overseeing 9 full time and 1 part time employees.
Dr. Kelly says that the State of Texas would provide the salaries and benefit costs for all cemetery employees as part of their contract with the County, meaning Taylor County would receive a monthly payment from the State based on invoices for costs of running the cemetery and overseeing the employees.
However, commissioner Randy Williams says that there are often operational costs that exceed the budget and he doesn’t feel comfortable passing those costs onto Taylor County taxpayers, especially because the veterans cemetery is located in the City of Abilene and Jones County but not in Taylor County.
“Where I have a problem that it’s called a state cemetery. . . a state veterans cemetery,” Commissioner Williams explains. “That mean it’s the State of Texas . . .I would really like the State of Texas to start funding its own responsibilities and stop dumping them on local jurisdictions.”
Commissioner Williams goes on to claim that, “every county across the State of Texas is having to pull out of their budgets to fund a state agency.”
Dr. Kelly addressed some of these concerns, saying that they have already entered into similar agreements with the City of Mission and Nuces County, both of which have saved Texas taxpayers money.
Another big concern, which is why Jones County and the City of Abilene are uninterested in operating the cemetery, is the lack of staff.
There are already 35 openings in Taylor County in just the law enforcement sector alone. Dr. Kelly says that the cemetery is currently fully staffed but Taylor County would be responsible for filling in any openings that arise.
Both Jones County, which is a small municipality, and the City of Abilene, which has a skeleton crew in the parks department because they contract a lot of work out, feel like they don’t have the staff to give the cemetery the support it needs.
In a final plea, Dr. Kelly said that Taylor County could enter into an initial agreement with the Land Office to oversee the cemetery for a year before deciding on a longer contract.
However, at the end of Dr. Kelly’s report, no motion was made, meaning no action was taken on the agreement.