Deputy City Manager Erik Walsh
Deputy City Manager Erik Walsh is the lone finalist to succeed Sheryl Sculley as San Antonio's city manager. Credit: Scott Ball / Rivard Report

As city manager of San Antonio, Erik Walsh will receive a base salary of $312,000 and other benefits, according to Mayor Ron Nirenberg, but his contract will not include a performance bonus.

City and Walsh’s attorneys finalized his contract Wednesday evening, ahead of Council’s vote to appoint him Thursday morning. If approved, Walsh’s effective date will be March 1. Click here to download the draft contract.

Walsh will be getting a raise to become city manager, but not by much because his contract is bound by voter-approved limits that cap the term of the position to eight years and the annual compensation to 10 times the lowest-paid City employee, roughly $312,000.

However, the contract includes other key terms and benefits including expenses and professional development provisions, retirement plan contributions, health insurance, and others.

Walsh will receive no less than $500 per month for a car allowance, $75 for cellphone, and $700 for expenses related to other duties such as meetings, travel, “and promotion of the work of the City,” according to the contract.

Walsh’s contract includes “expense allowances that you would expect for the city manager,” Nirenberg told reporters after a closed-door Council meeting Wednesday afternoon before the draft was finalized. “Obviously the City Council needs protections as does the employee.”

Outgoing City Manager Sheryl Sculley, who announced her retirement in November after 13 years in the job, also had such allowances, an expense account, and a severance clause. Walsh’s severance package includes 18 months of base salary in the event of a “without cause termination.” If fired “for cause,” meaning if he’s negligent in certain ways, he would not receive that pay.

Sculley’s base pay for 2018 was $467,788. She received more than $100,000 in other benefits and was eligible for a performance bonus of up to $100,000 – the latter having been subject to Council’s discretion and temporary metrics established by Council. Sculley declined to accept the bonus this year.

Walsh’s total compensation in fiscal year 2018 was $326,979. That included $253,791 in base pay, $9,494 of leave time sold back to the City, $56,853 for health care and additional benefits, and $6,840 in other incentives. 

Asked if the City will be getting more for its money than it should be, Nirenberg said, “Yes. Without a doubt.”

Last year, the City commissioned a third-party firm to establish more formal annual performance metrics and perform a compensation study of the city manager position amid criticism of Sculley’s salary and bonuses. She was also seen as the target of the firefighters union-backed Proposition B that imposed the pay and term caps for future city managers, though the new rules could not apply to her.

Those metrics, expected to be finalized in the next month, will no longer be used to evaluate incentive pay, Nirenberg said, but the evaluation could be used to establish cause for pay increases – that is, if the City’s minimum wage increases – and possibly build a case to change the salary cap rule.

“When everyone sees how well Erik is going to do, I think there will be momentum created” to alter the cap, Nirenberg said. Proposition B amended the City’s charter, which can not be changed again until 2021, according to state law.

“We’re going to live within the bounds of Proposition B, there’s nothing else I can say about that,” Nirenberg said. “That’s for the community to consider.”

The City’s minimum wage, after three years of increases, is $15 per hour. There has not yet been discussion to increase it further, Nirenberg said.

“Wages go up,” he said. “So when we adjust the city manager’s salary based on that, we can use the evaluation metric.”

The metric recommendations will come with a compensation study aimed at determining what the entry-level pay for San Antonio’s city manager should be. It’s unclear what that number is, but several people, including Sculley, have said it’s far above $312,000. She was offered about $300,000 when she was recruited to San Antonio in 2005.

The contract can be revisited and amended at the Council’s discretion.

Other terms outlined in the contract also include standard paid leave “with ability to carry forward 200 days,” health and liability insurance, and retirement package.

Iris Dimmick

Iris Dimmick

Senior reporter Iris Dimmick covers City Hall, politics, development, and more. Contact her at iris@sareport.org