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Bill Baumbach of Wylie: Commissioners deserve a pay cut
Dallas Morning News Community Opinions
Friday, April 18, 2008
Once again, the Collin County commissioners are looking at elected officials' salaries – including their own.
While the county has gotten a lot of bad press and a whole lot of election rhetoric for high salaries, commissioners have steadfastly granted themselves a raise every single year.
At a recent court meeting, Commissioner Phyllis Cole floated the idea of appointing a citizens board made of former grand jury members that would recommend annual increases to elected officials' salaries.
Frankly, the idea stinks.
It is a cowardly attempt by commissioners to insulate themselves from their legal responsibilities, and to shunt any criticism to a committee. In the discussion, County Judge Keith Self raised similar concerns. He is right.
The Texas Constitution and the law require that the Commissioners Court set all salaries for county employees and officials, except for the auditor and court reporters. Commissioners cannot escape their responsibility to the voters. Even if they appoint a salary board, it will only have the authority to recommend. Final approval must be by a majority vote of the commissioners court.
The taxpayers need to see their Commissioners Court beginning a discussion on cutting the salaries of the Collin County commissioners, not of abdicating their well-paid responsibilities.
Commissioners make $107,387 per year. To put it into perspective, the total cost of the county judge and commissioner salaries cost Harris County citizens 20 cents a year, but Collin County citizens pay almost six times that much – $1.11 per year – just for Commissioners Court salaries. Harris County commissioners oversee a budget of $749 million. Collin County, $169 million.
Last year, I wrote: "I believe the commissioners should index their compensation to the four suburban counties closest to us in size – two that are larger and two smaller. El Paso and Hidalgo are larger – Denton and Fort Bend are smaller. We take the average of those four counties, and then split the difference with the current Collin County scale. With this new formula, the commissioners would now get paid $91,737, an 8.9 percent pay cut. The county judge would see his pay cut 8.2 percent to $112,186."
I still believe the court should be focusing on cutting their salaries, not augmenting them.
Bill Baumbach is a Wylie resident and was the Democratic candidate for Collin County Commissioners Court, Precinct 2, last year. A version of this column appeared on Mr. Baumbach's blog, The Collin County Observer.
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