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Photo by Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT. Spencer Cronk became Austin's city manager in February 2018.

City Council approves 10% raise for city manager, Austin’s top executive

Tuesday, December 13, 2022 by Audrey McGlinchy, KUT

Citing a much-delayed cost-of-living adjustment, Council members on Thursday bumped Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk’s salary from $350,000 to just over $388,000.

The move represents an 11 percent increase in pay and the first change to Cronk’s base salary since late 2018. Council members characterized this raise as in line with pay bumps city employees have received; employees got a 4 percent pay increase this year.

Eight Council members voted in favor, with many lauding the city manager’s work.

“I have nothing but praise for Spencer,” Council Member Pio Renteria, who represents parts of East Austin, said. “He’s always been really honest with me. When he comes into my office, we have frank discussions.”

Cronk started as the city’s highest executive in 2018. (He’s not the highest paid, though; that would be Jacqueline Sargent, the head of Austin Energy.) As of late 2018, Cronk was receiving monetary benefits in addition to his salary, including an “executive allowance” of $7,200 a year.

The city could not provide a copy of Cronk’s current benefits by deadline.

Because Austin does not have a “strong mayor” system, Cronk oversees the vast majority of city staff and directs them on how to implement the policies Council members pass. The city manager is not elected, but appointed by the Council.

Three Council members – Alison Alter, Paige Ellis and Kathie Tovo – abstained from Thursday’s vote. Tovo and Ellis did not explain their abstention and did not respond to follow-up emails and calls seeking comment. Alter, however, spoke publicly about “deep concerns” she has had about Cronk’s performance for the past several years.

“I am dissatisfied with the manager’s performance, and it has risen to such a level that I can no longer save it for behind closed doors,” she said before the vote. Alter cited an incident two years ago, when Cronk said he would not demote then-Police Chief Brian Manley after what many Council members described as the mishandling of mass protests by the police department.

The vote to raise Cronk’s pay comes as the city struggles to maintain some of its lowest-paid workers. In October, the city said roughly half of its 911 call center operator positions – a job that pays $22.85 an hour – were vacant. This summer, the city fell behind paying about three dozen temporary workers, including those who care for children at city-run summer camps.

“Vacancies continue to plague multiple departments, causing key issues in performance and the provision of basic city services,” Alter said.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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