WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Representatives from the Wichita Falls charter review committee presented their recommendations to the city charter. Most of the changes that were presented were adjusting the language of the charter. But the most notable recommendations were changes to salaries and term lengths.
The charter review committee first met last July. Wichita Falls city attorney Kinley Hegglund presented their recommendations to councilors.
“The changes are basically an extra 300 dollars per month for councilors and an extra 500 dollars per month for the mayor,” Hegglund said.
Those increases would double the current monthly salaries. Other recommendations include increasing terms of office from 2-year terms to 3-years. Members could serve no more than two consecutive 3-year terms in the same office or no more than 3 consecutive terms if they win election to a different seat.
This would change current term limits which allow 3 consecutive terms of 2 years in the same seat. Members now can serve a maximum of 10 consecutive years by running for different seats.
“I’m in favor of these changes. But I know that a lot of people are gonna want some more explanation,” Wichita Falls city councilor at large Bobby Whiteley.
“People that are for term limits probably like the fact that we now can only be in office for 9 years; we can no longer be in office 10 years,” Wichita Falls Mayor Stephen Santellana said. “I think people for cost savings would like the fact that we are saving tens of thousands of dollars during election period holding one less election every three years.”
Mayor Santellana is also on the charter committee and is in favor of salary increases for council members.
“It doesn’t wash out,” Mayor Santellana said. “They actually lose money sitting on council. I’d hate for anybody to have to do that. It’s time to probably take a hard look at renewing that and making it a little better adjusted for my council members.”
But other council members do not feel that any changes should be made to salary or term limits.
“During this time with the pandemic and all I think we ought to just leave the charter as it is,” Wichita Falls city councilor district 5 Steve Jackson said.”
The city council has until august to approve putting these changes on the November ballot.
Mayor Santellana wants voters to see all these proposed changes to the charter before the election.
City council salaries have not been increased here for 32 years. If Wichita falls city councilors are losing money by serving for $300 per month, in other cities they are losing even more.
Amarillo now pays the mayor and councilors $10 per week and Abilene pays an annual salary of $1 per year of service.