The Tarrant County commissioners on Tuesday voted to raise the salaries of a number of elected officials, including themselves, sparking a squabble between officials that temporarily derailed the public meeting.
Commissioner Devan Allen, who represents Precinct 2, was the only commissioner to vote against the measure, which will give raises and one-time lump sum payments to county constables, commissioners, justices of the peace and others.
All of the affected positions had a maximum salary of well over $100,000 before the raises.
For commissioners, the maximum salary increased from about $183,000 to just over $188,000, with a one-time lump sum payment of about $5,500. For County Judge Glen Whitley, the maximum salary increased from about $193,000 to more than $198,000, with a one-time lump sum payment of nearly $6,000.
A year ago, commissioners rejected a 3% raise amid a recession brought on by the pandemic.
Allen said after the vote that she felt it was inappropriate for elected officials to take raises when some county employees and residents may not be making livable wages. She also said she was concerned that the county hasn’t conducted a gender-based pay equity study.
“I do not think that this is the right time for us to be giving ourselves raises,” Allen said. “I’m concerned about us blanketly providing raises knowing that we are also rewarding some elected officials who are derelict on their duties.”
Allen did not specify which officials she was referring to and did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.
But at the meeting, Whitley chastised Allen for her comments, and for several minutes the meeting devolved into a heated back-and-forth.
“Our county, because of the elected officials and because of the employees, is on [a] very, very, very strong financial foundation,” Whitley said.
After a short debate, Whitley attempted to move to the next item, which Allen protested.
“If you want to take issue with my decision, that’s fine,” Allen said. “But what you’re not going to do is bully me and try to tell me when I can and cannot talk, or any other way that you choose to bully.”
Whitley responded that, in his view, Allen should have registered her concerns about the raises before the vote, not after.
“You don’t need to educate me on parliamentary procedure,” Allen told Whitley.
“Well, maybe I do,” he replied.
The commissioners then wrapped up the back-and-forth and returned to the agenda. With no discussion, the commissioners vote unanimously to approve the county’s 2022 budget of $797.2 million. That includes $720.2 million for the general fund, $41.2 million for the road and bridge fund and $35.7 million for the debt service fund.
The budget includes a property tax rate of 22.9 cents per $100 valuation, which is a decrease of about half a cent from the prior year. But because property values have increased, homeowners are likely to see an increase in their tax bill. The owner of a $300,000 home will pay $687 in county taxes.