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This article originally appeared in the Friday Sept. 27, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.
The Palmview City Council approved an $11,000 raise for City Manager Michael Leo last week.
Mayor Rick Villarreal and the City Council approved the raise, which bumped the city manager’s salary from $94,000 to $105,000, on Sept. 17.
The City Council hired Leo, a longtime county employee who served as director of economic development, last year. He became city manager on Jan. 1.
During the past nine months, Leo helped repair the city’s relationship with the Agua Special Utility District, which had been badly damaged by a lawsuit and complaints about the Palmview sewer project; helped draft a conservative city budget, which included a $140,000 contingency; and helped Palmview refinance high-interest loans, which saved the city thousands.
He’s also responsible for a $6.7 million budget and 87 city employees.
“I’ve been working hard for the last nine months together with the City Council,” Leo said, adding that he’s proud of the projects they’ve been able to complete and the goals they’ve been able to meet.
The City Council discussed Leo’s performance, evaluation and compensation on Sept. 17. After the discussion, which took place in executive session, the City Council approved the $11,000 raise.
“He was asking for more,” Villarreal said, but the City Council decided to stick with $11,000 — a nearly 12 percent raise.
Palmview saved money when Leo originally accepted the $94,000 annual salary. The City Council had budgeted $127,000 for the position.
The budget, which the City Council approved on Sept. 14, didn’t include an across-the-board raise. Fire Department employees with special certifications, however, received stipends to reduce attrition.
Villarreal said the City Council considered Leo’s compensation a separate issue because members had agreed to re-evaluate his salary after six months on the job.
“At this point in time, it wasn’t about the whole staff,” Villarreal said. “It was just about our new city manager.”
City Councilman Joel Garcia said Leo proved himself and Palmview needed to compensate him accordingly.
“He’s been doing an outstanding job,” Garcia said, adding that Leo saved Palmview money by refinancing old, high-interest debt that accumulated under prior administrations. “He hit the ground running.”
As part of the evaluation process, the City Council reviewed how much neighboring towns paid their city managers, Garcia said.
The Alton City Commission approved a $110,000 annual salary for City Manager Jeff Underwood in March. The La Joya City Commission approved an $81,000 annual salary for City Manager Jacqueline Bazan in July. And the Peñitas City Council approved a $72,600 annual salary for City Manager Omar Romero last year.
Garcia said Leo is worth the money.
“I think he’s proven himself,” Garcia said. “With what he’s done.”