Fort Worth’s mayor and city council want a pay raise – a big pay raise.
And that’s not all. They want to set up a system that will allow them to get future pay raises without asking voters to approve them. Under the plan, mayoral and council salaries would be based on the pay of city department heads and assistant department heads so all they’d have to do is give raises to those employees and – bingo! – elected officials get raises, too.
This plan will be on the ballot as a proposed amendment to the city charter in an election scheduled for May 7. Based on current budget data provided by the mayor’s office, voter approval of the plan would increase the mayor’s pay from $29,000 to 99,653 per year and raise the annual salary of a council member from $25,000 to $76,727.
The pay rate for the mayor and council members would be calculated each year as part of the municipal budget process and would go into effect when the budget is approved in October, according to the mayor’s office.
Here’s the ballot language for the amendment, called Proposition F, which will go to voters along with 12 other proposed charter amendments dealing mostly with administrative issues:
“Shall Section 3 of Chapter III of the Fort Worth City Charter be amended to provide that the mayor’s annual pay shall be half of the average annual base-rate salary for all City department heads and that the other city council members’ annual pay shall be half of the average annual base-rate salary for all City assistant department heads starting October 1, 2022?”
The city council approved the charter election at its meeting Feb. 8 and also voted to place on the May 7 ballot half a billion dollars worth of bond proposals that would authorize the city to borrow more than $369 million for street improvements and other infrastructure projects; nearly $124 million for improvements to parks and recreation facilities; $39.3 million for construction and improvements to police and fire facilities; $15 million for open space and environmental improvements; and $12.5 million for library improvements.
Also on the ballot will be a special election to fill the District 4 council seat that Cary Moon is vacating to run for the Texas House of Representatives.
The measure sure to draw the most attention – and the most opposition – of course is the proposed pay raise for elected officials. Voters soundly defeated a 2016 proposal to raise the mayor’s pay to $60,000 per year and council salaries to $45,000.
The latest proposal figures to be controversial not just because of the size of the proposed raises but because approval of Proposition F will cut voters out of the decision-making process for future raises.
City Manager David Cooke explained the logic behind that part of the plan.
“One of the reasons for providing an index to a pay range or pay increase is that the pay can move up and down or stay flat, based on economic conditions, but also it would not require going back to the voters each time for a pay adjustment for either the mayor or any of the council members,” Cooke told the Business Press.
Mayor Mattie Parker and other council members focused on the need to increase the compensation for officials who devote many hours to serving the public and whose pay lags behind many other major cities (Fort Worth is the 12th largest city in the U.S., according to the latest census figures).
“It is important to me to be able to pass the torch someday and say, ‘If you’re a single mom and you want to be mayor, it won’t be easy, but you could actually raise a family on what you’re making,” Parker said.
District 5 Councilwoman Gyna Bivens, who also serves as mayor pro tem, said that the last time the subject of a raise came up she was against it. She said she is now neutral on the subject.
“I was the first on the council to voice my opposition for two-fold reasons: I saw us failing to communicate the positive work we had accomplished that impacted people’s daily lives. City service delivery is very personal, and although we might have repaired neighborhood streets all across the city, the citizen whose street remained untouched may have felt overlooked,” she said. “We really needed to communicate better to help citizens understand that just because you saw work crews on your street didn’t mean they were coming to your address as well.
“Likewise, I believed then – and now – citizens think we show up on Tuesday and go home. If we’re savvy enough to communicate the council-manager form of government, they might have a better grasp on the scope of our duties.”
Bivens, who was first elected to the council in 2013, praised the current council for its ability to demonstrate to the public the work they are doing and how much effort goes into making that work successful.
“What I find refreshing is the new energy this new council brings to the table,” she said. “Although we all have projects that are district-specific, their willingness to show and tell their city service activities certainly shows how far-reaching the scope of our jobs stretches.”
District 9 Councilwoman Elizabeth Beck voiced support for the pay raise plan.
“Our jobs are indexed to performance,” she said. “Every two years we put our name on the ballot,” said “This is more than a full-time job. It (the pay raise) allows us full-time representation of our constituents in a way that does not hamper us and our abilities to raise our children and provide for our families.”
Beck said higher pay would encourage more diversity on the council.
“Take this barrier away so that we do see more diverse representation on council,” she said.
District 6 Councilman Jared Williams, elected last May as the youngest council member ever at age 32, added, “I ran on a promise that we would break down barriers and get the kind of representation that lives in the halls of our city. To me, this is a step in delivering that promise.”
Early voting for the May 7 election begins April 25.