Tarrant County commissioners raised taxes overall (but lowered the tax rate) in the 2017 budget and voted merit pay raises of 3% for county employees, including themselves. bud@star-telegram.com
Tarrant County commissioners raised taxes overall (but lowered the tax rate) in the 2017 budget and voted merit pay raises of 3% for county employees, including themselves. bud@star-telegram.com

Bud Kennedy

County leaders raised taxes and voted themselves a 3% pay raise. Nobody even spoke up

By Bud Kennedy

bud@star-telegram.com

September 12, 2017 7:45 PM

FORT WORTH

Tarrant County commissioners gave themselves more money Tuesday, and took more of ours.

The four elected commissioners who run county government will be paid $172,491.92 each next year. They’re the second-highest-paid in Texas.

Only the Harris County commissioners earn more. (And deserve it.)

With much of Houston still in shelters and Texas recovering from both a hurricane and an energy bust, Tarrant County’s leaders still voted unanimously to dole themselves 3 percent raises next year along with other county officials and workers.

Will you get a 3 percent raise next year?

County Judge Glen Whitley of Hurst will. He and Sheriff Bill Waybourn of Dalworthington Gardens will be paid $182,482.04.

That’s still less than the $203,745, a 1 percent raise, for District Attorney Sharen Wilson of Fort Worth.

Commissioners cut the tax rate by 1 cent per $100 in home value. But since values are up about 10 percent, the typical tax bill will go up about $24.

If the idea of some of Texas’ most well-paid commissioners writing themselves bigger paychecks bothers you, consider this:

$172,481.92is the annual pay for Tarrant County commissioners, second in Texas only to Harris County (Houston).

In a county of 2 million people, nobody showed up on a Tuesday morning to complain about the raises. (Or defend them.)

The public comment period took six seconds.

Later, Whitley said Commissioners Roy C. Brooks and J.D. Johnson of Fort Worth, Gary Fickes of Southlake and Andy H. Nguyen of Grand Prairie looked at other counties and settled on the average 3 percent merit raise for workers and flat 3 percent for most officials, including themselves: “We feel very good about that.”

Wilson, on the ballot next year along with Whitley, Nguyen and Johnson, sent an emailed statement: “I am working hard every day to make sure that the people of Tarrant County have the best criminal and civil office in the state.”

Only Waybourn seemed sheepish. He said through a spokesman that he didn’t know he’d get a raise and didn’t ask for one. He thanked commissioners for deputies’ 3 percent raise.

Last week, when the Dallas County commissioners voted themselves a raise, County Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioner Elba García, both Democrats, spoke against it. They turned down the extra money, and Jenkins called for cutting taxes instead.

But both Democratic and Republican local party leaders acquiesced.

The 3 percent doesn’t bother me … but for Tarrant County not to have first-class mass transit is an issue.

Tarrant County Democratic Party chairwoman Deborah Peoples

“I don’t think I would do it, but they’re elected and they’re the ones who get to make the call,” said Republican county chairman Tim O’Hare, a Southlake attorney.

The Democratic chairwoman, former telecommunications executive Deborah Peoples of Fort Worth, said: “The 3 percent doesn’t bother me if commissioners step up and meet the challenges. But for Tarrant County not to have first-class mass transit is an issue.”

League of Women Voters President Kate Norris said voters need more notice.

Commissioners always meet on Tuesdays, and always during a workday.

“We would like to see more opportunity for the public to comment on a decision like that,” she said.

First you have to show up.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, @BudKennedy. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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