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Take politics out of commissioners court raises
12:00 AM CDT on Sunday, August 5, 2007
Even with a new county judge, the Collin County Commissioners Court can't seem to handle the issue of elected officials' salaries without creating a mess.
The solution is simple, and we've suggested it before: Find a reasonable benchmark to take politics out of the pay-raise issue.
Commissioner Joe Jaynes recommends tying raises to the amount given to most other county employees. That makes sense – more sense than giving yourself a larger raise than your employees, as the court did again this year.
Last year, commissioners talked about tying it to some percentage of Dallas County's pay for elected officials. That sounded reasonable, until it became clear that the 90 percent benchmark proposed was really a backhanded way of trying to restore longevity pay bonuses that the commissioners had been forced by political pressure to give up.
This year, some commissioners supported a new benchmark tied to the largest five counties in the state.
Indeed, to the extent that looking to other counties' paychecks is useful at all, the county should look at peer counties, not large urban ones. According to the 2007 Salary Survey completed by the Texas Association of Counties, Collin County commissioners make more than every other county commissioner in the state except for those in Harris, Tarrant and Dallas counties. Our county judge's pay is No. 3, just behind Harris and Dallas counties.
Keep in mind, Collin County has the seventh-largest budget among counties. So why should it have the third-highest pay for elected officials?
A more reasonable comparison would be to peer counties, those in the 2000 census with populations between 300,000 and a million people. But those comparisons aren't kind to Collin County: Commissioners make $26,000 more than average and the county judge about $50,000 more than average.
We applaud County Judge Keith Self for refusing a raise for himself, but we're not in favor of cutting elected officials' pay. Tying raises to a reasonable economic indicator and capping it at the percentage increase given other employees would do the trick.
No matter what happens, though, elected officials need to dispense with this notion that they are somehow underpaid. The best players on the Frisco RoughRiders? are "underpaid" compared to the worst player on the Rangers, but those guys aren't allowed to give themselves raises to play some absurd game of catch-up.
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