Willacy Co. Continues to Struggle from Prison Closure

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RAYMONDVILLE – The loss of revenue after a prison shut down cost Willacy County millions. Leaders are dipping into savings to keep county workers employed.

The annual revenue went from $10.9 million in 2014 to $7.4 million this year, according to the county auditor.

The county is using some of the savings to keep its 135 employees on the payroll. It had to lay off 30 workers after the prison shutdown in 2015.

Antonio Castillo was laid off from his job in maintenance at the Willacy County Courthouse in October 2015. He struggled for three months to support his wife and six children in his Raymondville home.

Finally, he took a job as a machinist at a funeral home.

“I didn’t expect to work here but I am now so, it is what it is,” he said.

The new job at Duddlesten Funeral Home was a tough adjustment for him.

“Very, very difficult mental-wise, emotionally wise. You gotta look at it as if it’s your loved one that you’re burying. You can’t just bury anybody,” Castillo said.

He said he wants his old job back but realizes the county has to make due with the staffing it has.

“I’ve noticed myself that sometimes the courthouse doesn’t look too good, but I understand there’s only one guy doing the whole thing,” he said.

County commissioner Eliberto Guerra said he too would like to have the old county jobs back. But the county can’t afford them, so the county workers have to do double duty.

“A lot of the county employees stepped up to the plate and they were more efficient to where we still service our constituents as best as we can,” he said.

Guerra said he is concerned about the county using too much of its savings to get by.

County auditor Ida Martinez said the county fund balance or its savings was up to $4.6 million in 2015 and dropped down to $3.9 million as of September 2016. 


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