Commissioners Roy Brooks (D), Gary Fickes (R), and J.D. Johnson (R), and County Judge Glen Whitley (R), before any of the public even spoke, asserted that they planned to vote against the salary increase. Commissioner Devan Allen (D) was absent.
“While we are going through this pandemic, there’s a lot of pain in our community. Our economy has suffered. People have lost their jobs. A decision this court can make is to share the pain with our communities. I am not in favor of giving any pay raise to any elected officials,” Brooks stated early in the meeting.
The county had proposed a three percent salary increase for elected officials, including the county judge, commissioners, sheriff, constables, county clerk, county tax assessor-collector, district attorney, district clerk, and justices of the peace.
According to county documents, the district attorney is the highest salaried official, with a salary of $239,999.90 in FY2020. The Texas attorney general is paid $153,750.
Several members of the public signed up to speak during the public hearing, but most thanked the commissioners for their opposition to a salary increase for elected officials.
Brooks took time to emphasize to the public that the commissioners “don’t just sit here and pontificate, we build roads. This is a job.”
Whitley defended the fiscal position of Tarrant County, saying “We are stingy with the tax dollars we ask of you.”
He compared the number of county employees in Tarrant County to other urban counties, such as Dallas and Travis.
If Tarrant had the same ratio of employees to every 1,000 citizens as Travis County, Whitley said, then the budget would cost over $365 million more.
Dallas County commissioners voted against a salary increase for elected officials last week.
The commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the county budget which included three to six percent salary increases for other county employees.
District Clerk Tom Wilder urged the commissioners to allow the pay raise for county employees. He said his department suffers about 20 percent turnover because of low salaries.
“When you look at Tarrant County salaries, we are not on par with the market. I’d like to compete with the market to keep employees.”
Several members of the public opposed the county employee pay raises.
“You are taking money from people who don’t have jobs to give raises to people who do have jobs. I think everyone should just be grateful for the jobs that they have and have had throughout this pandemic,” Karen Johnson, a member of the public, told the commissioners court.
The county also approved its new tax rate for the year. According to County Administrator G.K. Maenius, “The county’s proposed tax rate is below the no-new-revenue tax rate and will collect less in property taxes for FY2021 over FY2020, net new construction.”
The no-new-revenue tax rate is calculated by comparing the total appraised and taxable value of property in the taxing unit from last year to the expected values this year. New construction added to the rolls is not included in the no-new-revenue tax rate calculation.
Tarrant County will actually see over $9 million in new revenue based on new construction.
Individual taxpayers may see an increase in their tax bill depending on their individual property tax appraisal.
“I’m pleased to see the budget is set at the no-new-revenue tax rate,” Tarrant County resident Fran Rhodes said to the commissioners court, “however, you did nothing in this budget to give taxpayers any relief at all.”
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Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.