San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

January 21st, 2009
Council members ponder how much to pay themselves

by BRAD ROLLINS
Managing Editor

City council members on Thursday will discuss compensation for themselves for the first time since San Marcos voters in November approved a charter amendment allowing the city council to determine its own level of pay or reimbursement.

The issue is posted as an open-ended discussion that Mayor Susan Narvaiz said she sees as an opportunity for council members to air their ideas for how to go about accessing a dollar value for the time they spend at meetings, workshops and other events.

“Everybody may have a different idea on what they want to do and how they want to do it. …I think we are talking about trying to offset the cost of being in the office. I don’t think we want to draw an income on it and we shouldn’t expect that,” Narvaiz said.

The said she favors doing salary and compensation surveys of comparable cities of similar size and growth rate. The mayor said, “I have an idea of what I think is fair compensation but I don’t know if I’m prepared to say what I think.”

Council member John Thomaides said, “I’m generally in favor [of compensating city council members] within reason. … A lot of people could serve if there was some kind of adequte compensation but can’t because it currently costs money to serve. It the broadens base of those who could step up and we need more voices, more voices from average people who work for a living.”

Compensation is among the council’s table during its regular meeting this week, rescheduled from Tuesday evening to 7 p.m. Thursday. The regular meeting is preceded by a 6 p.m. workshop on city impact fees.

The council’s compensation discussion may center on determining a process for setting the council’s compensation or forgoing one altogether. Thomaides said he favors setting a citizens committee to make a recommendation to elected officials; council member Kim Porterfield said she doesn’t.

“I’m not really convinced that a citizens committee is necessary. We were elected to make these kinds of decisions and the charter amendment specifically says it will be set my city council. Certainly we want the public to have input on it but I think he most valuable guide is going to be looking at other cities to see what they do,” Porterfield said.

On Nov. 4, residents voted 8,903 to 2,187 to remove a line in the city charter that said, “Members of the city council shall serve without pay or compensation” and replace it with one that says, “City Council Compensation shall be set in a public forum by ordinance of the city council.”

The council takes up the issue after county officials –who statewide are almost always paid as a fulltime employees — received results of a consultant’s and citizen’s committees salary survey of comparable counties, a report the recommended, for example, increasing county commissioners salary and compensation from $74,792 to $87,869.

RELATED IN THE MERCURY

A brief history of city council compensation 01/22/09

Committee pushes pay hikes for elected officials 01/12/09

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