Of the three dozen Harris County elected officials slated to get a bump in their salaries in the 2014 budget, Commissioners will get the biggest increase at 11 percent to about $166 thousand dollars. Before the budget was approved, Commissioners allowed for public comment on the budget. No one was signed up. County Judge Ed Emmett was asked if he was surprised:
"No, I wasn't surprised that the budget passed, because over the intervening two weeks, there really hadn't been a lot of comment about it. People, who look at those things, looked at it and thought it made sense."
While the raises are larger than they've been in previous years, elected officials have not gotten a raise since 2008. With the county's economy booming, Judge Emmett says there is enough money in the budget for raises without hiking taxes:
"While mine's tied to the state district judges, the Commissioners and I are equal parts of the Commissioners court, and so you don't that disparity to get too large. And at the same time, if you go back to 2008, it works out to less than 2-percent a year annualized, and these things don't come along very often. We have a AAA bond rating, the county has always maintained I think, a very conservative budget approach, so this was a continuation of that."
He adds the recession six years ago forced Harris County hold off on raises until it had enough money to give them:
"I don't know how many would actually have been frozen for six years. I mean, that's a long time. Plus even before that, if you go back in time, Commissioner's salaries don't get adjusted very often. I mean, it's kind of almost a once-a-decade kind of thing, and so this was just the time to do that."
Besides County Commissioners, Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia's salary will increase to nearly $182,000, equal to the increases of District Attorney Devon Anderson and County Attorney Vince Ryan. Many of the county's 12,000 full-time employees will be getting merit raises. The new budget which is about 21-percent over last year's spending blueprint, goes into effect next month.