Orange County Commissioners Court says ‘No’ to pay cut
Orange County commissioners voted Tuesday to preserve the hefty raises they approved for themselves more than a year ago.
County Judge Dean Crooks, who took office in April, had urged the commissioners to “lead from the front” and rescind or reduce the raises, which amounted to approximately 23 percent for the judge and 15 percent for each of the four commissioners.
“It is something I believe in,” Crooks said.
He explained that he supports the 5 percent raise for the county’s 13 other elected officials, but felt it was a mistake to approve the bigger pay hikes for the Commissioners Court.
“Bringing it up in steps would’ve been a better move,” he said.
Crooks had requested a vote to lower their raises to something “more in line” with the others.
In July 2017, the Commissioners Court approved raising the judge’s salary to $105,040 from $85,500 and the commissioner salaries to $72,800 from $63,118, according to a human resources report.
“It’s not just a matter of budget and money,” Crooks said. “It’s a matter of leading from the front.”
Precinct 3 Commissioner John Gothia, who helped to initiate the salary increase, countered that last year’s raise was the product of “several months” of review. The elected officials hadn’t received a raise in at least a decade, he said.
“I stand behind that still today,” Gothia said.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Johnny Trahan called the pay raises “fair.”
The Commissioners Court voted 4-to-1 in favor of accepting the salaries as previously set for the coming year.
“I understand about leading from the front, but all elected officials are leaders in our community,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Barry Burton said. “If you take away from one, you take away from everyone.”
Both Burton and Precinct 4 Commissioner Jody Crump declined to accept the raise last year, but voted Tuesday to support the current salaries.
Burton said he doesn’t believe in taking money away from incoming and future commissioners.
“For counties of our size,” Burton said, in terms of pay, “ … we’re where we need to be.”