Both Commissioners Dennis DeWitt and Ken Haggard were in favor of offering a raise to the employees but neither wanted to give it to all the elected officials, with the exception of the four justices of the peace and the sheriff.
In fact, both have since declined the 5 percent raise approved by the court.
“I don’t feel that it is right,” DeWitt said after the meeting. “I feel very strongly about it.”
Haggard agreed saying, “I didn’t want the 5 percent.”
Since then, others have joined them turning down the raises.
Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 Ted Staples, Constable Precinct 2 Cliff Bagwell and County Attorney Mike Knight also formally declined the salary increase.
“During this stressful economic climate, Commissioner Haggard and I do not believe it appropriate for elected officials to raise taxes and grant themselves a pay increase,” DeWitt said.
Haggard actually proposed a 3 percent across-the-board increase for employees, except elected officials, with additional raises coming yearly and not sporadically as they have in the past.
Haggard said that during their budget hearings, in fact, their discussion never included how much additional income would come to employees.
“We never talked about a percentage,” he said during Monday’s meeting. “We are in a bind in the county. This is for the employees and not the elected officials.”
Recently, Haggard said, county leaders have offered raises one year but waited several more before offering any other increases.
In the 2006-2007 budget, the county approved a 5 percent pay increase. In the 2008-2009 budget, the increase was 3 percent. For the past three budgets, county employees have not had raises.
During last year’s discussions, all raises were cut and the county was still forced to raise the tax rate five cents to balance the budget. It was also during those budget talks that DeWitt then proposed commissioners take a cut in pay – an idea shot down by those on the court.
Haggard said Monday that he wanted to see 3 percent raises for the employees come yearly with the exception of elected officials who would be on an every other year schedule.
Commissioner Eloy Rodriguez reminded Haggard that future pay increases, as he was proposing, cannot be voted on by this court.
“It is not that we can’t make that decision now but we have to go in with that mind-set,” Haggard said. “I just feel that next year we are not going to match it.”
The motion to give all employees, including elected officials, raises came from Carlos Salazar Jr. with a second to the motion by Rodriguez. Both of them, along with Judge David Silva, voted in favor of this decision.
Haggard and DeWitt voted against it.
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.