A request for pay raises by four Johnson County justices of the peace has been rejected by a special salary grievances committee.The four JPs had filed salary grievances last month seeking raises of $11,000 to $12,000.On Tuesday, a committee of elected officials and community members chosen from the grand jury pool, voted 5-4 against raising the salaries.“It was just very disheartening and disappointing,” JP Jeff Monk, who was also unsuccessful in getting a pay raise in 2008.In their grievance letters, the JPs stated that previous salary surveys showed that their pay has been as low as 32 percent below the average salaries in counties similar in size to Johnson County, which has 156,000 residents. Their salaries are far lower than the county commissioners, who earn around $38,000 more.Monk, Pat Jacobs and Johnny Bekkelund earn $53,306, while Ronny McBroom earns $5,000 more because he also works as a magistrate.McBroom said he remains optimistic that a pay increase could still come.“There is a slight chance that this [the requests for raises] could be brought up during a budget workshop which is scheduled for Monday,” McBroom said.He added that there were discussions about a tight budget and that there is always “wiggle room.”The four justices contend that they are among the lowest-paid elected officials in the state.McBroom said that he looked at the Texas Association of Counties salary survey when compiling his information. Besides the low pay, the workload for the justices of the peace is increasing because cases once handled in higher courts can now go to JP courts. For instance, in 2007 the Legislature raised the amount of money that can be collected in a small-claims case from $5,000 to $10,000.The justices also handle other types of cases, from evictions to truancy.
Elizabeth Campbell, 817-390-7696 Twitter: @fwstliz