TAYLOR, Texas (KXAN) — Taylor residents are attempting to overturn a pay increase for city council members after the council approved a nearly 4000% increase in monthly compensation.

More than 1,300 Taylor residents signed a petition that, if approved, will create a referendum vote on the next regular election.

“Most were upset that the council gave themselves an increase,” Terry Burris, the man who started the petition, explained.

On August 17, after almost a year of discussing pay compensation, council members voted 3-2 to approve an increase that would pay council members $500 for every meeting they attend and the mayor $750 for each meeting he attends.

Mayor Brandt Rydell, Mayor Pro-Tem Gerald Anderson, and district 4 council member Robert Garcia approved the pay hike with council members Dwayne Ariola and Mitchell Drummond voting no.

The new compensation structure will begin on October 1.

A nearly 4000% increase in pay

Currently, the council is paid a $50 stipend every month. That was approved in 2006. When the council decided to talk about a compensation increase, it put together a citizen committee to research surrounding cities and come back with a recommendation on how much council should be compensated.

That committee came back to council with a recommendation of $125 for every meeting a council member attends.

Burris, a Georgetown native who has lived in Taylor for the past 20 years, said he agreed with the committee’s recommendation. The city charter allows residents to overturn an ordinance by gathering signatures of at least 10% of the registered voters in the town within 30 days of the ordinance passing.

Burris had to gather 940 signatures in order to make the petition valid. He set up at the local farmer’s market and saw a massive turnout from the community. He said 125 people showed up the first day to sign the petition, and in total he received 1,345 signatures in 20 days.

Burris said he had never seen the community come together like they did with this petition. He said this petition received signatures from people who identified as Democrats and Republicans. Many people telling him they were struggling to pay for bills, groceries, and gas, and were upset that the council was giving themselves a large pay increase.

“We talked to some folks who were at retirement age and they’re actually afraid of losing
their homes — having to sell or move,” Burris explained.

What does the council think?

The city of Taylor and Mayor Rydell both declined interviews about the compensation issue.

Council member Garcia did talk about his reasonings for a pay increase during a July meeting where the citizen committee’s chair gave a presentation and recommendation. Garcia said he and his colleagues do a lot more than just attend two meetings every month.

He said he will go to city events, meet with constituents, and donate to local charities and non-profits that take him away from his day job. Garcia said during the meeting that he had to take off 40 hours of work in a two week period because of city business.

He believes a higher compensation will allow him and his colleagues to attend more events and donate more to local charities.

“If we want to be good stewards in the community, I think we need to have the funds and the means to do so,” Garcia said.

Councilmember Ariola talked about his opposition to the pay increase during the August 17 meeting right before the ordinance was approved. Ariola made a promise to residents at the meeting that if the ordinance was passed, and “should this council change drastically” in May, he would move to immediately rescind the pay increase.

What happens next?

The petition was turned into the city clerk on September 15. The clerk has 10 business days to approve all of the signatures to make sure they are valid residents of Taylor.

If the petition is approved by the clerk, then the referendum will be placed on the ballot in either November or May. Mayor Rydell and council member Drummond will face reelection in May.

How do other cities compare in compensation?

Below is a table listing the compensation for mayor and councils of nearby central Texas cities. The data was compiled by the citizen committee.

CityMayor compensation (annual)Council compensation (annual)
Cedar Park$0$0
Kyle $1,300$1,000
Round Rock$14,400$11,400