Nine JPs to argue salary

BROWNSVILLE — Nine Cameron County Justices of the Peace will speak before a salary grievance committee Thursday evening to argue for a raise they feel is justified.

Jonathan Gracia, Pct. 2-2, will be making the presentation. He says the grievance is not about the money.

“There’s a lot of history in regards to this particular issue,” Gracia said.

According to the grievance letters, the raises requested range from $10,000 to $12,828.

Salary grievance committees are established when an elected official plans to grieve his or her salary seeking additional pay. The committee is made up of a pool of grand jury members.

Last year, when the county commissioner’s court proposed a salary increase for the judges, the judges instead suggested foregoing their raise to give their staff a 10 percent increase.

“The commission asked us in return whether we would be willing to give up our travel for our staff to have another cost-saving measure, and at the time, we said we would do whatever we could to achieve a 10 percent raise for our staff,” Gracia said.

Unfortunately, Gracia said, that did not happen. Staff received a five percent increase instead of the 10 percent that was promised. And because they had given up their travel, the employees could no longer get formal training.

“None of us were pleased when our staff got their checks and weren’t given what we proposed,” Gracia said. “All of us were disappointed, and that’s why we’re going forward.”

Currently, the judges make about $47,172, Gracia said.

In comparison to other counties with a population of 100,000 or more, Cameron County’s JP salaries are on the low end, though there is high variance across the state. Hidalgo County JPs earn about $82,400, according to the Texas Association of Counties 2016 Salary Survey.

County Judge Pete Sepulveda Jr. will preside over the committee but is not a voting member.

“I will be there to explain the process and the reason why the committee is meeting,” Sepulveda said.

“The process is that each elected official will state why they feel their salary should be higher, and the committee will vote on each request they get.”