Hidalgo County courts-at-law judges get hefty raises

Five Hidalgo County courts-at-law judges will each get more than $18,000 in salary increases next year, and it’s not because the commissioners court was feeling generous.

The 86th Texas Legislature essentially mandated the pay raises earlier this year when legislators passed House Bill 2384. The new law enacted a new salary structure for the Texas judiciary.

“The new salary structure rewards continued service by providing a salary increase for judges who have four or more years of service and increases the amount of longevity pay for state judges,” a letter from the Texas Office of Court Administration stated.

In Hidalgo County, those adjustments will cost taxpayers an additional $117,226. Of that amount, about $96,000 will go to salary increases and about $20,000 will be used for fringe benefits.

Five of the eight county courts-at-law judges will get a pay bump of $18,439: Court-at-Law No. 1 Judge Rodolfo “Rudy” Gonzalez, No. 2 Judge Jaime Palacios, No. 4 Judge Fred Garza, No. 5 Judge Arnoldo Cantu, and No. 6 Judge Albert Garcia.

Garza is currently the most tenured court-at-law judge in Hidalgo County with 23 years of service on the bench. Gonzalez has 18, Palacios and Cantu have 16, and Garcia has 12.

Court-at-Law No. 7 Judge Sergio Valdez will see a pay raise for serving six years, though it won’t be as substantial as his colleagues. Valdez will receive an additional $4,439.

Omar Maldonado, judge for Court-at-Law No. 8, who has served for four years, will not see an increase; neither will Probate Judge JoAnne Garcia, who is currently serving her first year.

Maldonado and Garcia will remain at their base salary of $157,000 and $158,000, respectively.