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You'd think they'd get the hint. Every year for the last few budget seasons, the Collin County Commissioners have taken all sorts of heat from wrathful voters over their insatiable appetite for ever larger paychecks.
But every year, the commissioners court comes up with a new game designed to increase their slice of our tax dollars.
Prior to 2007, it was the custom of the commissioners to meet in secret (executive) session to discuss how big a raise they would give themselves. In both the 2007 budget hearing and for 2008, I had to write and threaten the court with Attorney General action until they canceled these executive sessions.
In 2006, the court, under pressure from public outcry, eliminated their re-election bonus (longevity pay) and then their automobile allowance. Or so it seemed. However in a confusing series of votes, the court ended up then increasing their pay 6%. They then publicly cut their auto allowance, while quietly re-inserting the allowance into their base pay - thereby giving themselves whopping 17% raise.
This year, the new shell game involved the creation of a citizens "Elected Official Salary Committee". The rules the court gave the committee is that they have to, in only one meeting, listen to all testimony (mostly from officials wanting raises), then vote their recommendation that same night, with no real deliberations.
The county has given this committee a 36 page "Information" book to help guide them. The information predictably stacks the deck in favor of even larger commissioners court raises. Let's look at the 5 "methods" the information book gives the committee to choose from:
Method 1: No raise
The current salary of $107,387 would be retained in 2009
Method 2: 3.8% Cost of living
Would set the 2009 salary at $111,486
Method 3: Calculating Salaries as a Percentage of State district Judge Salaries
The county's booklet states that the judges are paid $140,000. It recommends a factor of 90% for County Commissioners. This would give each commissioner a huge 17% raise to $126,000.
Method 4: Set salary at the average of top ten counties in Texas
Collin County is the 8th largest in the state. This proposal weights the average with 7 larger counties, including Dallas and Harris, with only 2 smaller. Even after computing the average with so large a weight to the big city salaries, the commissioners would have to take a $5,000 cut to equal the $102,185 large county average.
Method 5: Set salary at the average of local counties
In this method, the county uses the average of Dallas, Tarrant and Denton counties to compute an average that would give the commissioners a 3% increase.
Why choose Dallas, Tarrant and Denton? Probably because that average equates to a raise. Why not use the truly local counties of Dallas, Denton, Grayson and Hunt? Because that average would require a massive cut in commissioner pay of over $21,000.
(Note, I have proposed a comparison with the 4 counties larger than Collin and the 4 counties smaller. That average of $97,787 would require the commissioners to take a $9,600 pay cut.)
Lets look at a little history to put the salary question in perspective. In the 10 years from 1998-2008, Collin County Commissioners salaries more than doubled - from $56,932 to the current $107,387. Let's compare that to the Consumer Price Index for the same period:
|Fiscal Yr||Salary||% raise||CPI||CPI Salary|
Using cost of living alone, the current commissioners salary should be $62,139, instead of $107,389.
This means that during this 10 year period your county commissioners received about $15,000 in cost of living increases, while also giving themselves over $45,000 in merit increases.
Note: The Elected Officials Salary Advisory Committee will meet at 6:00 PM on Monday, July 21 in the commissioners courtroom on the 6th floor of the Collin County Courthouse. 210 S. McDonald Street in McKinney.
The public may offer testimony or comments to the committee.
The Elected Official Salary Advisory Committee Information booklet is here.
Some of my previous posts on commissioners' salaries:
Jul 14, 2008 Elected Officials Salary Comparison
Apr. 13, 2008 Commissioners Salaries - yet another scheme
Aug. 9, 2007 Raise Season 2007
Aug. 4, 2007 Pay Hikes: Commissioners make enough money
Sept 6, 2006 Budget held hostage to Commissioners' raises
Sept. 5, 2006 Commissioners play shell game with their salaries.
Aug. 23, 2006 A slap to the face of every taxpayer in Collin County!
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