San Antonio City Council one step closer to nearly doubling their salaries

Current City Council members make $45,722 while the mayor makes $61,725. Those salaries have remained unchanged since 2015.

SAN ANTONIO — On Monday, the group of volunteers tasked with researching and suggesting changes to the city charter – essentially the city’s rulebook – got one step closer to finalizing how much of a raise City Council members and the mayor should get. 

For the past two months, the Charter Review Commission has divided itself into groups, or subcommittees, including one tasked with determining potential changes to City Council pay and term limits. That subcommittee on Monday presented its final recommendations, agreeing that both council members and the mayor should get raises. 

Currently, council members make $45,722 while the mayor makes $61,725. Those salaries have remained unchanged since 2015. The subcommittee suggested that the pay for council members be increased to $80,000 a year while the mayor’s pay is raised to $95,000 a year.  

“This is about who we want to elect as our future leaders, and who we want to attract as the leaders of our community,” said Luisa Casso, chair of the city council compensation subcommittee. “We want to attract the best and the brightest, and give them the opportunity to be in office and have the skills required as well as performed, without having to worry about holding down multiple jobs in order to perform with the time required that we are seeing councilmembers today.” 

Casso argues that a lot of council members put in 40 to 60 hours a week, many of them unable to fulfill the duties as they’d like to.  

The discussion has had council members divided. Councilmembers Manny Pelaez and John Courage, who have announced their candidacy for mayor, have opposing viewpoints. 

Courage believes its about time for a pay raise, while Pelaez believes “it’s tone-deaf.”

READ: SA City Council members could get a pay raise soon. Not all of them think they should.

Melissa Cabello Havrda, the council representative for District 6, has served since 2019. She believes that it’s about time for a raise, though she doesn’t feel that current City Council members should get the pay increase. 

“I don’t think that we as sitting council members should be able to benefit from that increase, partly because we’re voting to put it on the ballot, and I just think it’s bad form,” she said. “I think we should be able to set it up for the next person coming in.  Partly because when I was elected I knew the pay, right? I knew coming into it what it would be. So there’s a couple of reasons why I think it shouldn’t apply to sitting council members, but I do think it’s a good idea for future incoming council members.”

The subcommittee also believes that, in the future, wage increases for both council members and the mayor should happen when civilians who work for the city get pay increases themselves. The wage increase for both council members and the mayor should also be the percentage of raises for city employees. 

Term limits to change too?

The Charter Review Commission was also tasked with discussing term limits for city council members, specifically considering lengthening them. 

Instead of four two-year terms for council members, the subcommittee proposed two four-year terms instead. 

“We want to provide a long-term vision of our elected officials so that they are focused on what are they working towards, what are their proposals that they have for capital projects that could be in bond initiatives, that could be in capital efforts for their own district or citywide, looking out further than two years,” Casso said. 

Cabello Havrda admitted that in the five years she’s been on council, two-year terms have posed a challenge. 

“It is difficult, but not because (of) the act of running for council,” she said. “It’s because we have these projects that were brought to me by the community. If you’re working for two years every two years on these new projects, and maybe there’s a new person coming in every two years, depending on how well the community thinks you’re doing as a council member, a lot of those projects get scrapped. 

And some of those scrapped projects, Cabella Havrda says, may not be resurrected by a council member’s successor. 

“So it’s sometimes difficult because the community is expecting this project. They get really excited, there’s a lot of funds that are put into it… and then they don’t get continued because of a new person. “

Among the Charter Review Commission, there was ample discussion regarding the subcommittee’s recommendation of both term limits and pay, with some members not agreeing with the recommendation. 

“I just think the four twos is better from an accountability standpoint—accountability of voters and accountability of other council members around the body,” said Bobby Perez, a member of the commission. “I just think that’s where we should be as a community, in spite of the difficulty of the election cycle. I see it as a balance of the structure of professional city staff.” 

If both recommendations get the green light by the whole Charter Review Commission, City Council and then voters in November, the changes would take effect after June 2025. 

A city manager without (term) limits

The Charter Review Commission was also tasked with making a decision about city manager tenure and compensation. Currently, city managers, who are hired by the city and not elected, can serve no more than eight years. The subcommittee recommended both caps on length and compensation be removed. 

On Thursday, at 5:30 p.m. at the Central Library, the Charter Review Commission is inviting the public to comment on these recommendations. Members of the Charter Review Commission will also be voting on whether to forward these separate recommendations to City Council in June. City Council will then decide, at that point, which of the proposals will be on the ballot in November’s election. 

For more information about Thursday’s meeting, click HERE.

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