For Somervell County, the beginning of the new fiscal year is just days away. But the new way of doing business at Squaw Valley Golf Club has already impacted a number of county employees.
In establishing a new management plan for the county-owned and operated club, officials were forced to make changes, which County Judge Mike Ford called tough decisions.
"The whole thing was based on numbers," he said.
For Jesse Schoessow the only number that matters is one. He was the only of the county's 110 full-time employees eliminated in budgeting for the coming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. After a 22-year county career, he served his last day as lead mechanic at the golf club this week.
Schoessow said he was told he was being "laid off" Aug. 27, one day after the budget was adopted.
He said the news came with no warning, leaving Schoessow and his wife, Melissa, little time to prepare. He was told by his supervisor, Wade Busch, the elimination of his position would become effective Sept. 17.
About three weeks before the budget was adopted, Ford defended proposed increases for elected officials when a concerned citizen made a comment about the raises. That citizen asked how the court could give themselves a boost when others were losing there jobs. At the Aug. 8 meeting, Ford said the proposed budget did not include the elimination of any positions. But Ford explained this week that many changes took place after that meeting.
Still, the couple is wondering why Schoessow was the only county employee to lose his job. He initially believed his track record and length of service protected him from termination. A few years ago, a county policy that has now been eliminated offered reassurance to longtime employees.
The 2010 Somervell County Employee Handbook had a section addressing "reduction of force." The policy said if it became necessary to eliminate any position, retention of employees with similar positions would be based on performance ratings and seniority.
Until this week, Squaw Valley had two mechanics on staff. The second was hired less than five years ago, but his position was not eliminated.
Schoessow retained copies of each of his performance reviews from the last 21 years. All of the evaluations were favorable, with none noting issues.
But the 2010 policy is no longer in place. The handbook was revised and the force reduction policy was removed.
Ford said a number of employee policy adjustments were made around that time, after a new personnel manager was hired and suggested the changes that were based on "good policy."
But the questions for the couple don't stop there. While Schoessow's position was eliminated, three new county employees were added to the club's payroll. Golf Pro Duff Cunningham and two assistant pros were previously contracted employees. New county operations eliminate all contracted positions, but officials did decided to keep the three pros on board as county employees. The 2014 budget allots a combined $137,000 salary for the three-person pro management team, plus an additional $57,000 for pro shop support staff, which was not included in the 2013 budget.
"I feel like they got their jobs at my expense," Schoessow said. "The county had to eliminate my position, but they hired three new employees."
In addition, the county will pay Cunningham $90,000 in 2014 and an equal payment following year to buyout his contract, which would have expired in 2015.
Schoessow said he was given no option when it came to his ill-fated career. He said he would have taken a pay cut, even a drastic one if given the option. The 2014 budget includes $28,600 for the retained mechanic position, whereas the lead mechanic had a $42,000 salary.
Meanwhile, other employees charged with maintaining the golf course were given a choice. Three of them spoke with the Reporter saying the options were simple - take it or leave it.
Alan Willis has worked as a Squaw Valley greenskeeper for seven years. He said he was told by golf course Superintendent Jeff Hansen that his salary would be cut from $15.54 to $9 per hour. That pay cut became effective this week.
"That's about $12,000 in one year," Willis said.
The decrease is a big concern, but Willis said county-funded insurance is a big benefit he might not be able to walk away from. He said he has a preexisting medical condition, causing a "big dilemma." The cost of maintaining insurance coverage if he severs ties with the county could cost as much as $800 per month.
Penny Goforth, a landscape technician, had her wages cut from $14 per hour to $9. She was hired in Sept. 2008 as part-time employee and promoted to full-time about a year later. Goforth said she might not be able to afford to commute to work from her home in Brazos Point.
Nickey Hulsey, was making a little more than $15 per hour, and his salary was also cut to $9.
Ford said the decision to cut personnel costs were made to get Squaw Valley in line with the "going rate in the industry."
While all of the golf course maintenance workers saw their salaries slashed - one by $7 per hour - the superintendent's salary was not. That position was budget $64,049 for 2014, which includes the annual stipend.
"Everyone understands the belt has to be tightened," Melissa Schoessow said. "They are all willing to take some pay cut, but they are accepting 100 percent of the burden while others are getting pay raises."
While the county's financial issues cut through Squaw Valley, other employees, including elected officials, received an annual cost of living stipend of $600. Prior to the adoption of the budget last month, county commissioners and Judge Ford agreed to forgo their raises as discussions of budget cuts were ongoing.
The personnel changes were never discussed publicly, according to Ford. Open meetings laws do allow such discussions to happen behind closed doors.
Ford said the final decision, based strictly on numbers was just one alternative the county had to consider. He said officials had the option to close or sell the golf course, leaving all of its employees jobless. Instead, they opted to keep club open.
"The only way we could justify that was to get control of employee salaries and get them in line to compete within the industry," Ford said. "This was never aimed at any one person or group of people. It was just the way the numbers worked out."