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2013-08-15

County's potential pay hike takes hike

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Bandera County residents who were so inclined can now relinquish their pitchforks and extinguish their torches. Other than a previously approved 1.24 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA), county employees and officials will not receive a pay bump during fiscal year 2013-2014.
An earlier recommendation to give county employees and elected officials an across-the-board 4 percent pay raise - in addition to the COLA - was revisited during the Thursday, August 8, meeting of commissioners court.
During a budget workshop on July 25, Precinct 1 Commissioner Bob Grimes had suggested including the pay hike in the budget, as well as extending the raise and COLA to commissioners and Judge Richard Evans. According to Evans, Grimes' proposal would have added an additional $400,000 to the budget.
During the workshop, Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Wilkerson had indicated support for Grimes' proposal. However, last week, when push came to shove, that support evaporated. When Grimes made a motion for an across-the-board pay hike for all county elected officials and employees, including commissioners and county judge, his motion died for lack of a second.
Clearly disappointed with the outcome, Grimes then attempted to open a dialogue on salary considerations. He referenced being unable to hold private discussions on the matter with his colleagues due to probable violations of the Open Meeting Act. "I would like a discussion or debate and this is the only time to consider it," Grimes said, adding, "The last time that salaries were adjusted for elected officials was three years ago."
To justify the raise in an earlier meeting, he had observed, "The employees and elected officials are the backbone of the county. We need to retain all individuals. This would keep the county competitive with surrounding counties and organizations."
However, during the last court session, Grimes' hope for debate and discussion on the matter was dashed.
After an uncomfortable silence, Evans suggested that he would support longevity pay for elected officials. "The longer you're in office, the better you are at your job - in theory," he said, adding, "I may be the only exception."
Evans recommended scheduling a workshop during the next budget cycle - next summer's 2014-2015 go-round - to discuss and possibly implement longevity pay.
In an email sent to the Courier après court on August 8, Grimes noted, "I made the decision to run for office many years ago when I could afford to do so - after retirement - but more so when I would have the time to commit the necessary effort and input to be effective. I would have done so were the compensation half of what it is. The important aspect of public service is providing new and different ideas and points of view, and certainly, working to serve and support the interests of the citizens of the county."
Grimes' email continued, "My goal in bringing up the topic of salaries for the 19 elected officials was to have an open and participatory discussion by all members of the court in an open-meeting setting - the only place we can have such a discussion under the Open Meetings Act - and to share opinions and views. I am disappointed this did not occur."