LAS CRUCES – Three incoming Doña Ana County commissioners will see 15 percent pay raises because of a vote Tuesday by the county commission.
The commission, which includes three outgoing commissioners, voted 5-0 to increase pay for county commissioners from $29,569 per year to $34,005.
The raises will benefit incoming commissioners-elect Ramon Gonzalez of District 2; Isabella Solis of District 4 and John Vasquez of District 5, who take office on Jan. 1.
Two other commissioners whose terms are at a midpoint — County Commissioner Billy Garrett and County Commissioner Ben Rawson — won’t see increases. The increases will take affect after the next election for those seats.
In 2015, county commissioners increased pay by 15 percent for five other elected official positions: the sheriff, assessor, clerk, treasurer and probate judge.
County Manager Julia Brown said Tuesday that county commissioners opted not to award themselves a pay increase in 2015, which she described as a “selfless act.”
“I would submit to you, however, that I believe you should consider doing an increase for the newly elected commissioners,” she said.
Brown said commissioners spend a lot more time working in the role than the twice-a-month, regular county commission meetings. They also serve on 29 boards and committees. She recommended the salaries be increased 15 percent, a maximum limit set by the state Legislature.
“There are all kinds of duties and responsibilities that county commissioners are called upon to perform,” she said. “I think for the most part, the public doesn’t have a clue about how much of your time is called upon.”
County Commissioner Leticia Duarte-Benavidez, whose term ends Dec. 31, made a motion for the pay rates to be increased the “full 15 percent.”
“We work seven days a week; we get calls at all times, so it’s not a part-time job. It’s a full-time job,” she said. “So I believe the amount of funds the new commissioners will be getting will be well worth it. I fully support this.”
Rawson said the last time a pay increase was awarded for county commissioners was 2007.
“That 15 percent increase, once you include some compounding, is just over 1 percent per year,” he said. “So I think it’s well within a reasonable range. When you realize it’s been the same for the past 10 years, I think it’s justifiable.”
Asked about the new pay raises for commissioners-elect, Solis noted the raise was the first in 10 years.
“This is a decision they made,” she said of the current county commission. “And so, I think, the way I look at it, I just anticipate working and earning my pay.”
Solis and other commissioners have been attending orientations to get ready for the start of their terms.
County Commissioner David Garcia, who leaves office Dec. 31, said he serves on the El Paso Metropolitan Planning Organization, a transportation planning body that does work in the south county. As part of that job, he’s had to attend special training, in addition to normal county commission duties.
“A lot of the subcommittees we have to (attend) have also demanded more of our time,” he said.
Diana Alba Soular may be reached at 575-541-5443, email@example.com or @AlbaSoular on Twitter.
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