A year and a half into Sylvester Turner’s tenure as mayor, he ranks near the top of the list for mayoral salaries across the country. Houston’s mayor comes in third, making slightly less than the mayors of San Francisco and Los Angeles.

According to a study by American Business Journal into the salaries of the mayors in 60 major U.S. cities, Mayor Turner brings in about $235,000 annually, about four times Houston’s median household income. San Francisco’s mayor Edwin Lee makes $289,000, and L.A.’s Eric Garcetti makes $238,000. As a matter of fact, out of the ten largest cities, Turner receives the second highest pay.

Consider this, Turner brings in more than NYC’s Bill de Blasio who serves over 8 million people, oversees 325,000 employees and the largest public school system in the nation, and manages a $70 billion budget. According to the NYC charter, de Blasio is able to make up to $258,750, but chose to take less.

Turner’s current pay is a significant increase from when he was a state representative making $7,200 in years without a legislative session and $33,800 for years with one.

In Texas, certain mayoral maximum salaries are set as a percentage of state district judicial salaries. If the judges get a raise, the mayor, controller, and council members are eligible for raises. Of course, they reserve the right to reject all or part of their maximum salary, but Turner accepts his full compensation.

When Turner’s predecessor, Annise Parker, entered her final term, the legislature increased pay for judges. As such, Parker became eligible earn over $230,000 a year, which she agreed to take. With that same increase, council salaries were set to go from $56,000 to $62,000.

At the time, Council Member Jack Christie opted to forgo his increase, telling the Houston Chronicle, “There are two things out of control in the city of Houston, and that’s medical costs and pensions. I think, in negotiating with the pensions, I’m in a more reasonable position if I’ve given some, also.”

According to the Business Journal data set, Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings makes about $80,000  a year, Betsy Price of Forth Work takes home $29,000, San Antonio’s mayoral salary was recently increased to $61,275 from $4,040 following a 2015 Charter amendment, and Austin’s Steve Adler declines to accept his salary.

Regardless of which way you slice it, Turner makes far more than his state colleagues and most of his national big-city brethren. At the start of his tenure, and at a time of “shared sacrifice,” he’s making nearly as much as Parker did during her final term. At this trajectory, taxpayers can only guess what Houston’s mayor will be pulling in at the end of his tenure.

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.


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