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How Much Is Too Much? What Should Council Members Get?

Chris Eudaily | Texas Public Radio
Texas Public Radio

How much should City Council members and the mayor be paid? That’s one of the issues on the ballot as early voting continues in San Antonio’s local elections. We decided to size up the issue by talking to voters and a former mayor who knows what it takes to be an effective city official.

San Antonio council members do not currently earn a salary. They’re paid $20 for each meeting they attend, or about $1000 per year. The mayor receives a little more per meeting, earning a maximum of $4,000 a year.

The proposal on the ballot would give the 10 City Council members an annual salary of $45,000 and the mayor $60,000 per year.

Former Mayor Lila Cockrell is a proponent of salaries for council members. She says council pay in San Antonio hasn’t changed since 1951. “Think of how many years ago that was that this pay was adopted as part of the city charter, and it has never been amended.”

Because the item on the ballot could change the city charter, it needs voter approval. But voters have twice rejected similar council pay issues, in 1974 and 2004.

Outside the Wonderland of the Americas voting site, voter Julie Collins says she supports passing council pay this time because it would make it easier for more citizens to run for office.“I mean, really, $20 a week is what they’re making now? Who can afford to do that if you’re not independently wealthy or retired?”

Jesse Garcia, another voter, agrees. “There’s no reason why people who spend that much time shouldn’t be compensated for it," Garcia says. "It would allow more people to run. There are some people who just can’t do that because they can’t afford to get [just] $20 a session.” 

San Antonio is the only major city in Texas that doesn’t pay its mayor and council salaries. 

Manuel Rodriguez thinks that’s fine. He’s voting no. “I’m against it. Not because I don’t want them to get paid, they do a good service, but they only meet… I don’t remember exactly …it’s not like a full time job. That’s the only issue that I have going against that.”

Voters Rita and Joe Soto are also opposed. “I don’t care what they do in other places. I don’t care if they pay them in Houston, Dallas, I don’t care. We’re talking about San Antonio which is going to come out of our taxpayer dollars.”

Cockrell says council pay will come out of the already existing budget for their staff offices. “The pay for the council member would be taken out of the council pay that is allocated for the district.”

Some council members claim to work more than 40 hours per week for the city. If voters approve council pay this time, the officials would be paid what the median household in San Antonio earns.

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules