Dallas County officials push for a pay hike, but three commissioners push back on behalf of taxpayers

Too often elected officials aren’t attuned to the mood of the electorate, and that is especially problematic when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars on their own salaries.

So we were pleasantly surprised when Dallas County Commissioners voted down a measure to give themselves and other elected officials a 4% pay raise. County Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioners Elba Garcia and J.J. Koch voted against the raise. Commissioners John Wiley Price and Theresa Daniel backed it.    

The no vote means that the commissioners, sheriff, county treasurer, county clerk, district clerk, tax assessor-collector, justices of the peace and constables may have to make do with their current pay. And it is hardly a pauper’s wage — most receive well more than $120,000 a year and perks such as car allowances.

Nonetheless, several of these officials, including District Clerk Felicia Pitre, Sheriff Marian Brown, County Clerk John Warren and Tax Assessor-Collector John Ames, all argued to commissioners that they work hard and deserve more money.

We don’t question whether they work hard. But so do many of the nonelected employees beneath them who are toiling to make a living on far less.

The difference is that elected officials sought these high-paying posts voluntarily, and knew that the jobs demanded long hours and carried great responsibility. They all campaigned on their desire to serve the county, emphasizing their dedication to public service. 

Now they contend that taxpayers and commissioners owe them a substantial raise from levels that already are several times greater than the median household income in Dallas County. Moreover, last year, commissioners approved a similar raise for themselves and other officials.

Another pay increase for elected officials is a hard sell to Dallas County taxpayers. Property values are increasing. County taxpayers will see their tax bill rise even if commissioners vote to hold the county property tax rate at current levels. 

Unfortunately, this pay dispute isn’t over. A committee of nine members of the Dallas County grand jury, which normally hears evidence and determines whether to indict defendants on criminal charges, is expected to hear pay appeals from the elected officials. And there are rumors that some of the elected officials want to circumvent this review process and are maneuvering to have at least six of them become part of a nine-person salary review panel.

If you were able to give yourself a raise, you might just do so. But if the public pays your six-figure salary, complaining about being underpaid in an era when property taxes already put a hefty burden on taxpayers shows a stunning disconnection from constituents.