Brooks County is in a serious financial crisis. Several employees' jobs are on the line, and even healthcare benefits for all county employees are facing huge cuts.
Now, county employees are angry and demanding answers. They are concerned that Brooks County is going to file bankruptcy.
"Brooks County lost $200 million in value, oil and gas value, causing the county having to reduce budget by $1.2 million," Brooks County Judge Raul Ramirez said.
According to Ramirez, the county only has a little more than $3 million to work with this coming year. That means that the county will cut about 15 employees, leaving them at a total of 90. They are also cutting employee benefits, and even plan on reducing healthcare benefits, with just about $700,000 allocated to that in this coming budget year.
So what led to this crisis?
Judge Ramirez said the increasing number of illegal immigrant deaths in the area is costing them money. This fiscal year alone, they have had 74 deaths in the county. Burying those immigrants has cost the county about $111,000.
Most importantly, the oil and gas industry has caused the values of the county to go down. The Eagle Ford Shale boom is not happening in Brooks County, and the value of gas has gone down. Add old debt, and things are so tight the county might even have to do some furloughs.
"We haven't closed the end of the month totally to see if we will have enough for payroll. If not, we might even have to do furloughs," Ramirez said. "We have permits in Brooks County for oil-only gas development. The only thing, there are no rigs because they are all at the Eagle Ford."
The county also cannot raise taxes because they have reached the cap.
Judge Ramirez said that they are working on different ways to offset costs, and they are also looking at more ways to make more cuts next year.
Numerous county employees declined to speak on camera, for fear of retaliation, but they did say that they all feel very uncertain about their jobs. They are also very angry that the county is cutting their health benefits, and they say things are still very unclear to them. The employees hope to get answers from the county judge and commissioners soon.
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