During the budget process, questions often arise concerning the salaries of county employees and elected officers. Two recent Attorney General Opinions have re-emphasized the role of the commissioners court in these matters.
In Opinion GA-0639, the Attorney General addressed questions concerning whether the Tax Assessor-Collector may award additional compensation to salaried deputies from fees collected for motor vehicle certificates of title. In Opinion GA-0638, the Attorney General considered whether the county clerk may award additional compensation to salaried deputies from records management and preservation funds. In both opinions, the Attorney General ruled that any such compensation must be approved by the Commissioners Court before payment.
Under Chapter 152, Local Government Code, the commissioners court is required to set the amount of county compensation for its officers and employees as part of the county budget process. With only a few exceptions (hot check fee fund, motor vehicle escrow account interest fund), county officers other than the commissioners court are not authorized to pay county funds as employee compensation. Even district judges are required to provide notice and a public hearing when considering salaries under their limited authority, such as county auditors, assistant auditors, and court reporters. Finally, the state constitution prohibits a county from paying its employees a bonus unless the commissioners court has approved a bonus plan as part of the employees’ compensation before the services are rendered.
Chapter 152, Local Government Code, requires that the commissioners court shall publish notice of any proposed increase in the salaries, expenses, or allowances of elected county or precinct officers and set these items at a regular meeting during the regular budget hearing proceedings. Elected officers must be given written notice of their salaries and personal expenses. Elected officers have an opportunity to file a request for a specific change in their salary or personal expenses with the county salary grievance committee. If all nine members of the grievance committee approve the requested increase, the commissioners court shall include the increase in the budget.
This article contains only a brief discussion of major issues concerning salaries and compensation of county employees and officers. If you have a specific question please let me know.
For more information, please call me at 1-800-733-0699.