SAN ANTONIO – A budget proposal submitted by Bexar County Precinct 3 Constable Mark Vojvodich calls for more than 100 positions to be shifted from the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office to his North Side agency.
Vojvodich said, if accepted by county commissioners, the proposal would save the county $4.3 million next year and well over $40 million the next decade.
“Bexar County is in a fiscal crisis. They are asking for innovative ways to save costs and provide services,” said Vojvodich. “It answers several problems at one time. And if you get past their past issues with certain constables, it would make sense to do this.”
Vojvodich said the savings would come through two main streams: lowered salaries and related expenses for employees whose positions would be moved from BCSO to Precinct 3, and from increased revenue from warrants and traffic fines.
Vojvodich, who says he provided copies of the budget proposal to all four county commissioners and the budget office earlier this year, said he would be flexible in absorbing the positions over time and would fill the positions based on BCSO retirements, resignations and reassignments.
The plan calls for more than 60 BCSO patrol deputies, 22 civil deputies, 13 investigators, more than a dozen uniform administrative positions and five civilians to be moved under Vojvodich’s command.
The move would quadruple the size of his agency, according to budget figures obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders.
Vojvodich and his staff moved into new offices along U.S. 281 last summer.
He said the facility has plenty of space to support the additional infrastructure.
“We start out at such a lower level, you will save between $11,000-$17,000 on one salary,” said Vojvodich, referring to side-by-side comparisons of a starting BCSO patrol deputy salary versus a starting Precinct 3 deputy constable salary.
Vojvodich said the annual pay differential for a high-ranking BCSO employee is sometimes upwards of $40,000 higher than his or her counterpart in Precinct 3.
“He’s entitled to his opinion, I’m entitled to mine.”
Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar scoffed at the budget plan last week, stating that public officials can ask for anything early in the budget process.
“I can ask for a brand new jail. ‘Build me a brand new jail right now.' Doesn’t mean I’m going to get it and that doesn’t mean that it’s the best idea,” said Salazar.
When asked for additional details on increased incidental revenue, Vojvodich said county metrics show that Precinct 3 personnel are more efficient at serving civil paperwork each year than their BCSO counterparts.
He pointed to past budget data, which indicates the average BCSO deputy serves less than 600 subpoenas per year, while Pct. 3 deputy constables serve more than double that figure for civil paperwork.
“Precinct 3 civil papers metrics are twice that of the BCSO for like services and Precinct 3 has conducted countywide services of civil papers as a matter of need for years,” an executive overview of Vojvodich’s budget plan states.
“He’s entitled to his opinion. I’m entitled to mine. If that’s what he feels, he should write it up and make it official and submit it, absolutely, and see where it goes from there,” said Salazar. “I have no reason to believe that they’ll be stripping any positions from me anytime soon.”
A budget cycle unlike any other budget cycle
A presentation given to county commissioners last month on the fiscal and operational impact of COVID-19 indicates its budget could take a hit of up to $90.2 million, when accounting for decreases in revenue streams and expenditures related to the pandemic.
The county instituted a hiring freeze in April and is currently offering early retirement packages to qualified employees, although multiple county sources said some employees have balked at the idea because they would be permanently ineligible to be rehired by the county in any capacity.
Still, elected county officials who spoke with the Defenders for this story are not yet sold on Vojvodich’s plan.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Tommy Calvert said a better approach would be to spread out BCSO positions to all four constables county-wide and to redirect other BCSO vacancies to addressing the county’s efforts to address mental health.
Calvert release the following statement:
“The lack of federal and local plans on COVID means that all budget saving matters are on the table. However, giving positions solely to one Commissioner precinct would not pass the court. The way to get it done is by looking at increased training for Constables to deal with common Sheriff Department calls and the officers would be shared equally by each Constable countywide. The other way to achieve savings is to look at the 200 vacancies currently at the Sheriff’s department and use a portion of that to create an assisted living facility for those who are mentally ill because 25 percent to 35 percent of those in the Bexar County Jail are mentally ill and they don’t belong in the jail. That would save even more money by reducing jail meals, transportation and manpower costs. That’s 21st Century policing—getting smart on crime.”County Commissioner Tommy Calvert
Precinct 2 Commissioner Justin Rodriguez responded via email:
“My personal preference is that the constable’s office stick to those core responsibilities...process serving and JP court security. Of course, regarding the budget, nothing is off the table this cycle. We will need to be in belt-tightening mode. I’ll look at anything that makes us more efficient. But this particular proposal doesn’t seem to make economic or practical sense.”County Commissioner Justin Rodriguez
Commissioner Kevin Wolff, who shares Vojvodich’s precinct, was unavailable for an interview on the proposal because his chief of staff said it was too early in the budget process.
Wolff, who did not seek reelection, will leave office at the end of this year.
As will Precinct 1 Commissioner Sergio “Chico” Rodriguez, who lost last week in the Democratic primary runoff by more than 20 percentage points to political newcomer Rebeca Clay-Flores.
Clay-Flores will take on Republican Gabriel Lara in November’s general election.
Rodriguez did not respond to a request for comment on Vojvodich’s proposal.
The veteran constable introduced a similar proposal in 2010, but it was ultimately not accepted come budget time.
A county spokeswoman declined to make members of the budget department available for an interview for this story, claiming that submitted proposals are still being reviewed and evaluated.