LAMPASAS — Residents attending two back-to-back public forums this week gave county commissioners more than an earful about a proposal to grant themselves a 12 percent pay increase in the upcoming budget cycle.
Some commissioners received no salary increases and others only a slight increase during their times of service, and now they say it’s time to “catch up” to comparable salaries paid to commissioners in neighboring counties.
One resident said the amount paid to commissioners for vehicle reimbursement allowances — raised to $9,600 in 2011 — should be considered a salary increase, making their claims of forfeiting raises for years “a little disingenuous.”
County Auditor Chris Munn said the vehicle reimbursement was well within the structure of Internal Revenue Service guidelines.
“The commissioners get $9,600 a year for a vehicle allowance, and that equates to the current IRS mileage reimbursement rate of 56.5 cents per mile,” Munn said. “In talking to the commissioners, some told me they put in it at least 20,000 miles a year in their own personal vehicles.”
Lampasas property owner Mike Hail asked if commissioners are required to show proof of mileage logged on behalf of county business.
“So, they can spend that money however they want to?” Hail said. “Theoretically, you could take your vehicle to the county barn, get in a county vehicle and let yours sit there and not use it, and then you could spend that money on whatever you want to.”
Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cox cited examples of using his own vehicle and equipment in the middle of the night to help during emergencies.
Other commissioners cited extensive use of their vehicles while tending to county business.
“It’s not a money-making deal,” Cox said.
The commissioners’ current salaries are $51,600 each, not including the vehicle reimbursement. The proposed 12 percent raise would give each commissioner an additional $3,000 per year.
“Are you going to do more work in exchange for that raise?” Hail asked the commissioners.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Lowell Ivy cited examples of approving regular, steady raises for county employees while commissioners received no increase in 2007, 2010 and 2011.
“This just brings us up to a level playing field,” he said.
Another budget workshop will be held at 9 a.m. Friday in the County Annex’s first floor conference room. Commissioners are scheduled to adopt the fiscal year 2014 tax rate and budget Monday.