Bexar County commissioners approved a measure Tuesday to give nearly every Bexar County elected official a small pay raise under the County’s proposed budget plan for the fiscal year 2016-2017.
Some officials will receive a two or four percent increase in salary, ranging anywhere from $2,244 for the County commissioners to $3,936 for full-time Justices of the Peace.
The Citizen’s Advisory Committee proposes salary and allowance recommendations, which come out of the County’s general fund, every two years after drawing comparisons with other large Texas counties and making adjustments based on San Antonio’s cost of living. It was created nearly 20 years ago to avoid elected officials “(being) accused of raising our own salary,” Commissioner Paul Elizondo (Pct. 2) said.
The County commissioners, clerk, district clerk, tax assessor-collector, and the sheriff will receive two percent salary increases, while the constables and justices of the peace will receive a four percent increase.
The Judge Probate’s salary will be the only one that will remain the same at $161,492. Commissioners will approve the entire budget for next year in September.
In addition to the committee’s recommendations Tuesday, County Manager David Smith proposed raising the annual wages of District Attorney Nico LaHood and Judge Nelson Wolff, both of which he considered low compared to other large Texas counties.
Most other counties, Smith said, have separate positions for the criminal district attorney and the county attorney, but for Bexar County LaHood serves as both.
LaHood, who receives $140,000 in state pay, currently receives a supplement from the County of $44,773, plus a $6,000 auto allowance. Smith recommended increasing that supplement, bringing it to $102,000. In total, LaHood’s salary will amount to $242,000, including the same $6,000 car allowance.
Smith arrived at that number by combining and averaging the salaries for the district and county attorneys for Travis and Harris counties, he said.
Judge Nelson Wolff will see a more than $20,000 salary increase, bringing it to $155,741 with a $9,000 car allowance. The total $164,741 wage is the median salary for “county judges across all major urban counties when you adjust for the cost of living,” Smith said.
Wolff’s son, Commissioner Kevin Wolff (Pct. 3), was uneasy to vote on the matter.
“I think that the math is correct, I think the position deserves that level of compensation, however,” Kevin told the DA’s Chief of the Civil Division Edward Schweninger, “if there’s a conflict I don’t want to cross that line.” Schweninger told him it wouldn’t be a conflict for him to cast his vote.
Officials, who were made aware of their proposed salary adjustments on Tuesday, have until Monday, Aug. 1 to dispute their adjustments. Some past officials who have done so have received more than the proposed amount.
Meanwhile, commissioners approved a request to add 17,075 hours of mandatory overtime for detention officers at the Bexar County Adult Detention Center. The overtime hours – which will go through the remainder of the fiscal year until Sept. 30 – will fill the gaps left by a shortage of officers.
The detention center has “a higher average daily jail population, just under 3,800 for this month,” said Assistant County Manager Tina Smith-Dean, but there are almost 100 vacancies for detention officers.
The County has already spent $250,000 on overtime this year, and the new hours will add $512,000.
In the past month, there have been four inmate suicides at the detention center, but Bexar County officials said that a lack of staffing has not contributed to this issue. Wolff, who has reviewed the case files of the four inmates, noted that there have been a large number of delays in “getting these people to trial.” One inmate was waiting for three years, he said.
“We need to make sure we’re handling it right from the jail. You can imagine the psychological pressures of sitting in jail three years and you can’t even get a trial,” Wolff said. “I think were doing everything we can to prevent incidents like that, but … three years in that jail without trial is just not right.”
Top image: Judge Nelson Wolff. File photo by Scott Ball.