Travis County weighs employee compensation, retiree cost of living adjustments

Travis County is considering several salary-related items in the FY 2018-19 budget, including cost of living adjustments for retirees, elected official salary grievances and more.

Travis County is considering several salary-related items in the FY 2018-19 budget, including cost of living adjustments for retirees, elected official salary grievances and more.

As Travis County Commissioners fine tune the preliminary FY 2018-19 budget, a key issue is compensation. Elected official salaries were approved July 31; however, four officials have since filed a salary grievance. Commissioners are weighing compensation for county employees, salary grievances for four of the five Constables and cost of living adjustments for retirees.

County employee compensation
The Commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to include a 2.5 percent salary increase for all regular employees who have been on the payroll since April 1 in the FY 2018-19 budget draft. The increase is inclusive of a $1,000 minimum for employees who make $40,000 or less and will appear on the payroll April 1, 2019, county budget director Travis Gatlin said. The budget is not final until approved by the court. A vote is scheduled for Sept. 25.

The county’s planning and budget office is calculating the total cost of the salary increase for the county, with an early projection around $5,415,000, Gatlin said.

In all, the commissioners are weighing approximately $13,640,000 worth of compensation allocation items for FY 2018-19—from the salary increase to a benchmark study and more.

Salary grievances filed by elected officials
In response to elected official salaries set on July 31, four of the five Travis County Constables filed salary grievances. Each official requested that his salary be raised to the full market value estimate of $113,149 during FY 2018-19 rather than the amount previously voted by the Commissioners Court of $103,790.

The county held an elected official salary grievance committee hearing Aug. 15. The committee of nine citizens, drawn from the grand jury pool, voted 6-2—with one member absent—to recommend the amount requested.

The additional cost is estimated at $46,472. The salary adjustment is not applicable to the Constable from Precinct 5, because he did not submit a grievance to his salary. However, County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said the county plans to bring his position—and the 19 other elected officials who are paid less than market value—to market value over the next 3 years.

Retiree cost of living adjustment
The commissioners unanimously approved a retiree cost of living adjustment as part of the FY 2018-19 budget draft. Individuals who retired prior to this calendar year will receive a retirement increase at 50 percent of the consumer price index. Former county employees who have been retired longer will see a greater increase than those recently retired, due to the changes in CPI over time.

The adjustments, effective Jan. 1, 2019, will cost the county $14,730,000, according to the planning and budget office’s Aug. 21 presentation to the commissioners.

The Commissioner’s Court has periodically awarded cost of living adjustments for retirees, with the most recent increase awarded in 2016 as a 50 percent CPI-based adjustment.

By Taylor Jackson Buchanan
Taylor Buchanan joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2018 after completing a master of journalism degree from the University of Texas. She worked as the senior reporter for Community Impact's Southwest Austin edition and is now the editor for the company's flagship Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition.


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