After three hours of tense deliberation Friday, members of a nine-person Hays County Salary Grievance committee unanimously approved raising the pay for three county constables to $74,000 a year.
The move came after Precinct 1 Constable David Peterson, Precinct 3 Constable Ray Helm and Precinct 4 Constable Ron Hood requested a grievance hearing for proposed pay raises.
In August, Hays County constables requested raising their pay from an annual salary of $67,762 to $93,824, which was ultimately denied by county commissioners.
In their grievance request, Peterson and Hood sought a $93,824 salary, while Helm requested a $74,000 salary, which was the “happy median” the committee eventually approved. The committee was comprised of nine elected county officials, including District Attorney Wes Mau and Hays County Sheriff Gary Cutler.
“Detectives with five years of experience are making $68,000 a year,” Hood said. “I’m not grudging these officers or their salaries. It could be better for these guys and I think it should be. But I am using this as a comparison to my justification.”
Early on in the meeting, committee members believed constables deserved a pay raise, but disputed what the wage should be.
“Don’t leave out how fast the university and county are growing,” Cutler said. “I am proud of the work they do. Do I have problems with $93,000? Sure I do. I’m a taxpayer too. But I know we can come up with an agreement.”
Committee members also believed factors such as experience and time of service must be addressed, but in a different fashion. Constable salaries are set during the county’s budget process.
Helm, Hood and Peterson all argued their salaries were not reflective of Hays County’s current and future growth. Constables said they are compensated lower than eight of nine other counties with similar growth projections and demographics.
However, Mau said higher compensated constables in the state were in counties with at least double the population of Hays County.
Mau added that a better system needs to be implemented, so salary disputes for elected officials aren’t presented to a committee, especially considering not all members of the committee are experts on law enforcement.
Cutler said he felt the constables should be compensated around $80,000 a year; he ultimately voted for the $74,000 increase.
“I do think the county has worked hard to keep our wages competitive with other countries,” Mau said. “But we’re setting a precedent with future constables. If a new constable with little experience is elected, they will get compensated the same as these gentlemen, who combined have over 70 years of experience.”
With the committee’s unanimous approval, the Hays County Commissioner’s Court does not have to make a decision on constable salaries. The item will be part of the county budget, which will be adopted at a later date.