Edinburg – Hidalgo County Executive Officer, Valde Guerra will being enjoying a 22% increase in salary if Hidalgo County Commissioners approve the Fiscal Year 2018 budget next week. The increase will bring Mr. Guerra’s total compensation to around $160,000 annually, which would be on par with other county governments of similar size and scope, this according to Precinct 2 Commissioner Eddie Cantu who spoke with the McAllen Monitor.
Guerra has been in the services of Hidalgo County for the past 30 years, ultimately being appointed to Executive Officer in 2007. According to Executive Officer profile on the Hidalgo County website, Guerra’s duties include:
- Oversee and provide management direction to all County departments under the direct control of the Court.
- Ensure to the Court that all departments are managed and administered in an efficient and cost-effective manner
- Support the overall operations of the County
- Provide necessary services to the Hidalgo County citizens and/or to County departments and employees
Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia, Hidalgo Commissioners, nor Mr Guerra himself have demonstrated what additional duties Mr. Guerra would assume to justify a 22 percent increase, nor have they disclosed any performance evaluation reports to the public that would justify an increase.
It didn’t take long for Hidalgo County citizens to raise their concerns with Mr. Guerra’s raise. The optics couldn’t come at worse time considering the cost of the new county courthouse is under scrutiny, and questions were raised on whether Hidalgo County really needed to procure a 5.4 million dollar voting machine replacement.
Complicating matters further is the uncertainty the federal 2018 budget will have on municiple and county governments, particular in housing and urban development, much in which the county has some oversight. Reduction or elimination of these grants could reduce employment, and place additional burden on Hidalgo County’s very own general fund if the county is to cover some of the cost.
Citizens also pointed out that Mr. Guerra’s increase amounted to an annual salary of various entry level staff positions, and could be better spent in aquiring additional support in numerous departments. Taking a look at the employement section of the county website shows a few positions where $28,943 increase is nearly the starting annual salary for some staff positions.
That being the case, did the Executive Office, budget office, and Commissioners take the time needed to determine whether essential support staff was urgent and necessary before approving the raise? Increase in personnel charges must be sustainable, and it’s $29,000 the county will not have for additional personnel or operating cost. This especially at a time where unemployment rates in the Rio Grande Valley are running at higher percentages than other major metro areas.
Once again Commissioner Eddie Cantu justified Mr. Guerra’s increase by saying it maintains parity with other counties. However, what Mr. Cantu fails to understand is just because something is wasteful in other counties, doesn’t mean it has to be wasteful in ours.
UPDATE: The annual cost of living adjustment (budget permitting) for employees is 3 percent.