Dallas County Politicians Raise Own Pay, Sheriff’s Dept. Compensation Still Uncertain

Dallas County Commissioners generously voted themselves a six percent pay raise this week while the future of the county’s police and other employee wage increases remains uncertain.

Currently, County Judge Clay Jenkins (D-Dallas) earns $171,367 and four commissioners, a healthy $145,474 each. The six percent will boost Jenkins to $181,650 and commissioners to $154,200 apiece, the Dallas Morning News reported. This does not include a yearly $9,300 car allowance. Hired county employees do not fare as well. They packed the house at Tuesday’s meeting in downtown Dallas.

Elected and hired county employees are compensated through property taxpayer dollars. Jenkins opposed upping elected official pay, saying the “average person out there” does not get a six percent increase. However, Commissioner John Wiley Price (D-District 3) defended tax hikes to cover county employee pay increases.

Price is the federally indicted accused fraudster for taking $950,000 in bribes over a 10-year period from businesses seeking Dallas County contracts.  Last year, he was indicted on 13 counts of bribery, corruption, and tax evasion for withholding income from the IRS. After complaining about his alleged inability to pay defense attorneys fees in his upcoming 2017 corruption trial, taxpayers became saddled with a portion of his legal fees.

In a 3-2 vote, commissioners Price, Mike Cantrell (R-District 2), and Theresa Daniel (D-District 1) voted to raise their salaries while Jenkins and Commissioner Elba Garcia (D-District 4), voted against.

However, less tax dollars collected means less money proportionally set aside for raises. County homeowners, stretched thin from skyrocketing property values, seek tax relief. Recently, the judge proposed cutting the current 24.3 cents per $100 valuation to 23.6 cents per $100 valuation, alleviating the tax burden from $46 million to $31 million (netting the six percent raise), according to the Dallas paper.

Only Cantrell, who is not seeking reelection, pushed for an even lower tax cut, down to 22.6 cents per $100 valuation which would have resulted in a three percent raise, the amount both elected and hired employees received in 2016.

Dallas County sheriffs packed the meeting and urged commissioners to approve an increase for the many hardworking yet declining number of the county’s hired employees who serve as sheriff’s deputies, court and courtroom personnel plus health and social service workers. According to KDFW 4, an independent study showed hired workers earn between 15 and 30 percent below the same job in the private sector. Disparagingly low salaries mean the numbers of non-elected hired county employees continue to dwindle.

“We are having a big problem, a big time problem getting young people into the sheriff’s department,” said Lt. Sefton Burke, a 23-year veteran of the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department. He told commissioners: “We’re not paying people enough to be attracted to the department at all.”

On September 20, the Commissioners Court will vote on non-elected hired employee raises and the county’s tax rate. Jenkins told KDFW 4 he must weigh salary concerns for worker wages against those of property taxpayers in a county of 2.6 million residents.

Wednesday, Dallas Police Chief David Brown tweeted out a statement to the City Council, a reminder of issues raised over police pay and morale, exacerbated by the tragic July 7 ambush that left five officers dead and nine injured.

Brown wrote:

“The Dallas Police Department needs more officers patrolling neighborhoods to keep Dallas safe. Since I’ve been Chief of Police, 1000 employees have been cut from the police department; 200 police officers and 800 non-sworn support staff. The department is understaffed and underpaid. My request to add 200 officers over attrition will save citizens’ and officers’ lives. Overtime funding has saved lives, but it is not sustainable in the long term. Our officers are working everyday and putting themselves in dangerous situations to keep our community safe.”

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