DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Will Dallas City Council members ask voters for a raise? Perhaps not if it’s a small one, like one being talked about by a city charter review commission, but there’s strong sentiment against a fully-salaried council.
“Council service in Dallas is civic service,” claims John Weekley, who worked city council and bond campaigns for decades. He said he believes a part-time, policy-making council with a professional manager running the operation is why council-manager government works. “The council pay is not intended to be a salary. It is not intended to be pay. It is intended to be compensation for expenses.”
Since 2001 council members have earned $37,500 a year, the mayor $60,000. A charter review commission is wondering if they now deserve an incremental raise based on the Consumer Price Index. It would bump their pay up to almost $45,000 dollars and the mayor’s to nearly $72,000.
“I feel that an increase is needed, but it needs to be driven by some given objective criteria, and that’s where in index comes from,” Commission member Diane Ragsdale told CBS 11 News.
Ragsdale was also an activist council member back in the late 1980s when they earned just 50-dollars a meeting. She says she was happy to volunteer, but it was hard. “Because I am a nurse I was able to work flexible hours, if you will, but it was extremely difficult.”
She feels boosting the pay would allow more average citizens to participate. “And also it would serve as a basis to expand the pool of people who could run.”
Dallas council compensation falls in the middle of other council-manager governments in Texas—more than Fort Worth, less than Austin. San Antonio’s is truly volunteer, $20 a meeting. Houston’s strong-mayor government is the highest-paid, with its mayor commanding $209,000 dollars to run the city. But in 2005 Dallas residents voted to retain the strong manager and not a strong mayor.
“The voters decided they did not want to change the council-manager form of government. And there was a great deal of debate about this,” according to analyst Weekley.
The charter commission is also taking a look at term limits and redistricting policies. It’s expected to report to the council in May.
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