There is much controversy about the salaries that Veronica Escobar, Vince Perez and David Stout voted for themselves recently. Carlos Leon and Andrew Haggerty voted against the raises. Veronica Escobar technically voted against giving herself a raise, but it remains my contention that she did so knowing in advance that she had the votes to get the raise. Regardless, Veronica Escobar and cohorts have been defending their raises by referring to a report that they commissioned comparing various metrics against other Texas counties. I have not seen the report so I assume it has yet to be made public. Since the proponents of the elected officials raises have used the metrics of a report, I thought it important to share some of the metrics comparing other counties with El Paso.
I did not want to overload you with data, so I took a page out of the county commissioners’ arguments and decided to present you with a comparative analysis of selected counties. I chose an initial set of counties based on their median household income to compare to El Paso. Although it can be argued that the per median income is a better metric instead of the household income, which can include more than one wage earner in household, I decided to keep it because the ideal household is a one wage earner.
Another issue that is frequently brought up is that El Paso is on the US-Mexico border and thus it has unique metrics that must be addressed. Therefore, I added the missing Texas counties that border Mexico but whose household income did not make my first cut. Unfortunately, I was not able to gather the data for Starr County in time for publication so for now, those metrics are empty.
From this, I compiled a list of 37 counties. Because of the salary increase controversy I added two versions for El Paso County, the pre-salary increases and one that represents the metrics with the salary raise expected to take effect on October 1 ,2016.
Before presenting the metrics to you, let me explain what each one represents. The “household income” is the median household income for the county. The population column is the population for 2015. The “budget” column represents the county’s budget for 2015. The “county judge” and “commissioners” columns represents the salaries for the respective offices for that county. You might notice a column on the right side that contains an “*”. It represents a county that has a salary range for the commissioners’ court. In this case, I used the starting salary for the office.
The “property value” is the value of all taxable property in the county. Obviously, the higher the value the more valuable property there is in that county. The next column, the “state expenditures” is the amount of money the State of Texas spends in that county. This money comes from university, public security, human health services and many other services that the State of Texas spends in the county. The column represents the total state expenditures including the total amount paid on things like office space rent.
The next column, the one titled “state public assistance” represents the total amount the State of Texas spends in the county on public assistance services. The “prop tax rate” is the property tax rate for that county in 2015. The next column, the one labelled “sales tax” represents the amount of money the State of Texas returns to the county.
Initially I was hoping to find a source for the total sales reported to the state by each county so that I could show the retail activity in each county. Unfortunately, I was not able to easily find that data. Instead, I used the amount that the State of Texas pays each county based on the amount of sales taxes that county collects on top of the state sales tax. Although the higher numbers tend to show better retail activities it, unfortunately, does not allow an apples-to-apples comparison because some counties do not impose a sales tax and each has different rates. However, it remains a useful metric for an idea of how much retail activity there is and how much sales taxes it generates for that county. The counties with a zero amount in that column means that, that county does not impose a sales tax.
The next three columns are simple percentages. I thought it important to look at the salaries in relation to the county’s budget and in relation to the household median income. The higher the number the more expensive the salary is in relation to the county’s budget and/or in relation to the household median income. “Income” is the comparison for household income, “judge” is the county judge’s salary in relation to the county’s budget and “comm” is the county commissioners’ salary in relation to the budget.
There are two rows for El Paso, the top one is for the existing salaries and the last one, the bright yellow one is that proposed salaries expected to take effect on October 1, 2016.
The bold red numbers represent the highest amount for that specific metric.
Here are some graphics depicting the metrics in graphical format:
Today, I am offering you this analysis without comment because I am interested in seeing what you each make of the metrics, especially in light of the salary controversy.
I am also interested in knowing if these types of metrics are useful to and if it is something you would like to see more of.