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For a second year, Dallas County commissioners fail to pass raises for elected officials

In a special session of the court Tuesday, commissioners debated whether to give all county employees — including elected officials — a cost-of-living adjustment.

For the second straight year, Dallas County commissioners failed to approve a cost-of-living raise for themselves and other elected government officials.

Now, a committee of elected officials and grand jurors selected from the public will decide whether those who have filed salary grievances will get a pay bump.

In a special-called session of the court Tuesday, commissioners debated whether to give all county employees — including elected officials — a cost-of-living adjustment. Commissioner John Wiley Price suggested 3%, while Commissioner J.J. Koch suggested 2%.

Price’s motion failed in a vote, while Koch’s did not get a second motion. The procedural stand-off means that no raise was approved.

County Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioner Elba Garcia said they would not support any increases in elected officials’ salaries. Jenkins abstained from the vote on Price’s motion, and Garcia voted against it.

“Elected officials know what they’re making when they run,” Jenkins said. “I don’t vote for elected official increases.”

Garcia said she’d rather see raises go to county employees who make less than $60,000, a measure that’s still being considered before the court finalizes the 2022 budget and tax rate at the end of this month.

“We have to be considerate about how we use the money,” Garcia said. “The county has to be very responsible.”

The measure was initially slated for a vote last week, but Commissioner Theresa Daniel criticized a 2% raise for county employees that did not include one for elected officials. She said the officials who do important work for the county shouldn’t be left out, prompting the special meeting Tuesday.

She said she hoped any salary increase would include those officials to help make civil service jobs competitive with private-sector wages.

“We are not doing ourselves any favors,” Daniel said.

“How many elected officials walk off the job because they don’t like the salary?” Koch countered. “That would be a gross, gross violation of the public trust. ... You’re there to serve.”

Last year, Koch opposed any raises for elected officials, but said Tuesday that he would only support the 2% city staff suggested.

“I’m supportive of making sure salaries keep pace with inflation,” Koch said.

Because nine elected officials, including several constables, have filed formal protests, a salary grievance committee will now decide if they will get raises and at what rate.

Last year, the raises were rejected amid concerns of a shrinking budget due to the coronavirus pandemic. In 2019, the commissioners rejected a similar pay bump, leading to grievances from elected officials. The court ultimately passed a 4% increase after the grievance committee approved raises for two constables.

In This Story

Charles Scudder, Staff writer. Charlie Scudder is a general assignment reporter and has worked on the features and news desks for seven years. He's also an adjunct professor at UNT's Mayborn School of Journalism. Raised in Colleyville, he is a graduate of Southern Methodist University and Indiana University.

cscudder@dallasnews.com @cscudder
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