Saturday is Election Day. Fort Worth voters will say yea or nay to big pay hikes for mayor, city council

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Voters will go to the polls Saturday to decide if Fort Worth’s mayor and city council members will get a gigantic pay raise and also whether to authorize more than half a billion dollars worth of improvements to public facilities and the city’s infrastructure.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and ballots can be cast at any vote center in Tarrant County.

During early voting, 61,422 ballots were cast in elections that in addition to the city of Fort Worth are being held by a number of Tarrant County municipalities and school districts, including the Fort Worth Independent School District. Also on the ballot are two Texas constitutional amendments that could lower property taxes for some.

Voter turnout during the early voting period that ran from April 25 to May 3 was 4.95 percent.

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By far, the most attention is focused on Fort Worth where proposed pay raises would increase the mayor’s salary from $29,000 to $99,653 per year and council members’ pay from $25,000 to $76,727.

Besides the large pay boost, the proposal also would create an automatic system for future pay adjustments “indexed” to the pay rates of top city administrators. The mayor would receive a salary that is half the base rate of city department heads. The salary of city council members would be half the average base rate for assistant department heads.

The pay raise is one of 13 proposed amendments to the city charter that will appear on the ballot.

Also on the Fort Worth ballot is a $560 million bond package that includes funds to fix and improve roads, add and repair parks and recreation facilities, build a new library in far northwest Fort Worth, upgrade police and fire facilities and expand the city’s open space program.

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And while they’re considering all that, voters in Fort Worth’s District 4 will also choose a new council representative to replace Cary Moon, who forfeited the seat to run for the Texas House of Representatives. Moon ran unsuccessfully for the District 93 House seat that is being vacated by Matt Krause.

The four candidates running for the District 4 council seat are Alan Blaylock, James H. McBride, Teresa Ramirez and Tara Wilson.

Fort Worth’s pay raise proposal has been criticized not only for the amount of the raises but also for taking future decisions on mayoral and council salaries out of the hands of voters and linking the elected officials’ pay raises to that of department heads and assistant department heads.

The pay rates would be built into the city’s annual budget, which the council would then vote to approve.

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City Manager David Cooke said that while the proposal would eliminate the need for voter approval of future pay raises, it doesn’t mean the mayor and council members would get a pay raise every year.

“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,” Cooke told the Business Press.

A vote to include the pay plan on the ballot was approved unanimously by the council on Feb. 8.

Mayor Mattie Parker and other council members expressed support for the pay increase because elected officials devote extensive time in those roles, making it difficult to juggle a full-time job with city duties.

The last time a pay raise proposal was presented to voters was in 2016, when it was resoundingly defeated. That proposal would have raised the mayor’s salary to $60,000 and council salaries to $45,000.

Fort Worth is the nation’s 12th largest city and Texas’ fifth largest, but mayoral and council salaries lag behind more populous metro competitors.

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