The Travis County Commissioners Court is about to take more of your money—and they’re also pocketing a lot more of it, too.
On Tuesday, county commissioners voted to move forward with raising taxes by 8 percent next year, meaning they’ll take about $126 more from the average homeowner’s wallet (and roughly $400 more per year compared to 11 years ago).
On top of taking more cash, the commissioners recently voted to also raise their own salaries, stockpiling an extra $16,000 this year. Assuming they approve their already-planned additional pay increase next year, they’ll have boosted their $106,000 salary up to $151,817 in just three years.
“I just think that it’s embarrassing for us to do this,” said Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, the lone Republican on the court and the only one who opposed the plan. He called the raises “very, very arbitrary” and an “insult” to the thousands of regular county employees who won’t be receiving a substantial pay increase. The proposed staff salary increases will total $13.7 million.
Commissioners are grabbing as much cash as they can before next year, when a new state law will require them to ask citizens’ permission before raising taxes more than 3.5 percent in a year. Commissioner Brigid Shea said she did not like the new law of simply asking.
“It is unfortunate that the Legislature has put local governments in Texas in this position,” Shea said Tuesday. “I think it’s important for us to warn people that we are going to have to be taking a very, very careful and harsh look at what we are going to be able to provide and what we are going to be able to pay for.”
County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said in March, when the new law was still being debated, that having to ask citizens first for more of their money is “unworkable” and “really, really hampers” her and the county commissioners.
“If [the legislature] is going to cap us, you’re going to really, really hamper our ability to be flexible to respond to economic downturn, floods and wildfires, [or] fluctuation in the service demands on a daily basis,” Eckhardt told state lawmakers.
Not only do Eckhardt and Shea oppose the idea of simply asking citizens first for more of their cash, and not only are they taking extra this year, but they and the commissioners are using that money to give themselves tens of thousands in salary raises.
The commissioners are hosting public meetings regarding their new tax hike on September 17 and 20, and they are expected to approve it on September 24.