Texas local government salary

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Texas local government salary data is public record.


Sunshine Review reviewed San Antonio employee salary data as of January 1 for years 2008 to 2011. There were nine employees earning over $150,000 in 2008, 19 employees in 2009 and 2010, and 22 in 2011. The total cost of the top 22 salaries in 2011 was $3,812,636.[1]

According to The Texas Tribune, Houston had a total of 17,591 employees at an annual salary cost of $888,942,237 in 2011.[2] The average salary was $50,533 and the highest salary was $238,254, for the EMS Physician Director.


In 2010 there were 51 Harris County employees earning over $150,000 in salary and nine employees earning more than $200,000 annually. Employees in three county positions garnered salaries of $289,308, the highest earnings in the county. There were 505 employees earning more than $100,000.[3]

  • The Director of Infrastructure and County Engineer, Chief Medical Examiner and Director of Public Health all earned $289,308.
  • The county Executive Director for Correction Health Services earned $251,556 annually.

According to The Texas Tribune, Dallas County had a total of 6,642 employees in 2011.[4]

  • The median salary was $39,540.
  • The highest salary was $247,687 for Jeffrey J Barnard, the Director, Institute Forensic Sciences.
  • The lowest salary was $20,134.
  • There were four employees earning over $150,000 a year.

School districts

For the Houston Independent School District in 2011, 18 employees earned more than $150,000, with an average salary of $176,507.[5]

  • The highest paid employee was Superintendent Terry Grier with an annual salary of $300,000.
  • Richard Patton, the district's e-Rate Compliance Office, was the lowest paid of the group with $150,000.
  • The total cost of the 18 employees was $3,177,136.08.

Law enforcement

According to The Texas Tribune, the Harris County Sheriff's Department had a total of 3,670 employees in 2011.[6] The median salary was $50,876 and the highest salary was $251,555 for the Executive Director of Correctional Health Services.

Parole and probation officers

Texas' prison, parole and probation officers collectively made $2.8 billion.[7]

Fire departments

The Houston Fire Department had a total of 3,944 employees at an annual salary cost of $229,057,470 in 2011.[8] Houston Fire Department salaries are public records under the Texas Public Information Act.[9] The average salary was $58,077 and the highest salary was $238,254 for the EMS Physician Director. There were four employees earning over $150,000 a year.

Public utilities

Even though public utilities traditionally do not release salary information, CPS Energy in San Antonio released its top salaries.[10] The report revealed the top 18 executives earned more than $4.2 million collectively, with the CEO Doyle Beneby earning a base salary of $360,000.[11]

Bryan Texas Utilities also planned to release its executives salary data, after debating it for more than a year.[12].[13]

Salary articles

In 2011, Sunshine Review requested salary information from 19 local governments in the state.



School district

Law enforcement


Salary records project

In 2011, Sunshine Review chose 152 local governments as the focus of research on public employee salaries. The editors of Sunshine Review selected eight states with relevant political contexts (listed alphabetically):

1. California
2. Florida
3. Illinois
4. Michigan
5. New Jersey
6. Pennsylvania
7. Texas
8. Wisconsin

Within these states, the editors of Sunshine Review focused on the most populous cities, counties and school districts, as well as the emergency services entities within these governments. The purpose of this selection method was to develop articles on governments affecting the most citizens.

The salary information garnered from these states were a combination of existing online resources and state Freedom of Information Act requests sent out to the governments.

Importance of public employee pay disclosure

In July 2010, The Los Angeles Times uncovered that officials in Bell, California were making remarkably high salaries.[14] Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo was earning a yearly $787,637. It was later uncovered that Rizzo's total compensation after taking benefits into account topped $1.5 million a year.[15]

For comparison:[14]

  • Manhattan Beach, with about 7,000 fewer people than Bell, paid its most recent city manager $257,484 a year.
  • Long Beach, with a population close to 500,000, paid its city manager $235,000 annually.
  • Los Angeles County paid its chief executive, William T. Fujioka, $338,458.

Corruption solution

After this report was released, governments began to proactively disclose salary information of their employees. Before the end of the summer of 2010, more than a dozen cities in Orange County, for example, posted salary information on the front pages of their websites.[16]

The cost of transparency websites maintaining such information ranges from the tens of thousands to the hundreds of thousands. These websites also save money, and this often is not taken into account when measuring costs.

Citizens upset about the breach of trust and armed with information formed a group called the Bell Association to Stop the Abuse, which pushed for an independent audit of city salaries and contracts.[17]

Citizens, empowered with information, are key to keeping government free from corruption and efficient. A study published by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia revealed that the city of Philadelphia has a problem with the efficiency and costs of public employee pensions.[18] The amount that Philadelphia pays to pension recipients limits the city’s ability to use its budget effectively.

The report revealed that there were more individuals receiving pension benefits—33,907 claimants in 2006—than workers in the city—28,701.[18] The authors of the study recommend three steps towards addressing the problem of high costs in pensions.[18] First, improve data collection so that decision-making in terms of pension policies is more informed. Second, promote transparency for better accountability to citizens. Third, reduce costs and use the savings for developing Philadelphia.

Resistance to public employee salary data as public records

The idea of making public employee salaries is relatively new. In 2008, several local government employee associations and unions protested the posting of state employee salaries by newspaper The Sacramento Bee.[19][20] At the time, it was seen as a safety risk and invasion of privacy.

Sunshine Review aims in posting salary information

Publicly posted salaries often leave out important information. Salary schedules can be published as ranges, not as specific take-home compensation, and high-level, highly-paid positions are often not disclosed proactively.[16][15] Additionally, salaries leave out compensation received through health and retirement benefits, as well as benefits such as commuter allowances and cell phone reimbursements. This project aimed to close the gap and provide a more accurate picture of public employee salaries for the sake of public education and transparency.

See also

External links


  1. Data Given to Sunshine Review
  2. Texas Tribune "Houston Salaries"
  3. Sunshine Review, Harris County Salary Information
  4. Texas Tribune "Dallas County Salaries"
  5. HISD Salary Data
  6. Texas Tribune "Harris County Sheriff'S Dept Salaries at Harris County"
  7. The Dallas Morning News "How bad is the budget crunch?" Oct. 24, 2010
  8. Texas Tribune "Fire Salaries at Houston"
  9. Are city employees' salaries public information or are they protected for personal privacy?—Texas Center for Community Journalism
  10. Texas Watchdog, CPS Energy discloses top salaries, promises openness, Sept 7, 2010
  11. My San Antonio, CPS pays 18 execs average of $233,000, Sept. 1, 2010
  12. "Texas Watchdog, Texas' prison, parole and probation officers collectively make $2.8 billion
  13. The Dallas Morning News "How bad is the budget crunch?" Oct. 24, 2010
  14. 14.0 14.1 The Los Angeles Times "Bell city manager might be highest paid in nation: $787,637 a year," July 14, 2010
  15. 15.0 15.1 The Los Angeles Times "Benefits push Bell ex-manager's compensation to more than $1.5 million," August 8, 2010
  16. 16.0 16.1 The Orange County Register "O.C. cities dash to post personnel salaries," August 10, 2010
  17. Bloomberg "California Official's $800,000 Salary in City of 38,000 Triggers Protests," July 20, 2010
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 '’Philadelphia’s Quiet Crisis: The Rising Cost of Employee Benefits, Pew Charitable Trusts and the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, January 23, 2008
  19. GovTech "California State Workers Protest Salary Database Publication," March 17, 2008
  20. The Sacramento Bee "State Worker Salary Search"