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San Antonio Council has a salary problem

Monday, March 2, 2015 by Jo Clifton

Although the Austin City Council recently had some disagreements over how each Council member might use his or her salary, there was never any question about whether their salaries were sufficient. That’s because the 2006 Council approved an ordinance giving Council members the same salary increase as most rank-and-file city employees. Last year, that salary hike was 3.5 percent. So, Austin Council members make a little more than $70,000 a year, and the mayor makes more than $82,000. Not so in San Antonio, where Council members currently make $1,040 and the mayor $4,040 annually. They will be asking voters to give them a real salary in May. But San Antonio Express-News columnist Gilbert Garcia thinks his Council is way behind in campaigning and may not get that salary increase. Garcia wrote, “The bad news is that the road from here to election day (May 9) is lined with potholes, pylons, speed bumps, and, possibly, a few stray llamas.” Former Mayor Phil Hardberger did it right, Garcia opines, when he successfully backed a charter amendment in 2008 that relaxed term limits for Council members. But Hardberger “made the term-limits referendum his personal crusade,” Garcia said, and he began that crusade at least six months before the election. San Antonio’s current major, Ivy Taylor, is running for a full term as mayor and will not have time, or perhaps the will, to put too much effort into the salary referendum. Garcia also notes that the 2008 referendum campaign spent more than $600,000, but this year there will be many candidates scrambling for dollars for their own campaigns. And Hardberger is not available. Finally, there is what Garcia calls “the May curse,” which we in Austin know a lot about but no longer have to contend with. He is expecting the turnout to be small, noting that the 2013 municipal election turnout was less than 7 percent. In case you were wondering, the salary these Council members might get in San Antonio is $45,722, with the mayor at $61,725.

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