HAYS COUNT, Texas -- The Hays County Salary Grievance Committee unanimously voted to approve an increase in pay for three of the county's constables to $74,000 each.

At a public hearing Friday morning, Precinct 1 Constable David Peterson, Precinct 3 Constable Ray Helm and Precinct 4 Constable Ron Hood all presented their cases on why they believe they are being underpaid. Currently, all three have a salary of nearly $68,000 per year, not including any allowances or longevity pay.

"This salary is definitely needed. I came from the sheriff's office in 2008 making $48,000. It wasn't the money, it's to serve and protect," Peterson said.

Hood cited a fast-growing county and years of law enforcement experience as reasons for an increase.

"We're just like everybody else, we have expenses. So to say you knew what the job paid for when you took it, that gets old," Hood said.

Helm said his inferiors are encroaching on his current salary of $68,000.

"Now I signed up for it. I signed up on that ballot and got elected for it, but it just doesn't seem fair to me that my staff is going to make more money than I am," Helm said.

Hood's plea was their salaries be evaluated under the same standards as other law enforcement and not as elected officials. Sheriff Gary Culter agreed, saying they are peace officers first and foremost.

"We turn to these constables to help us. They're peace officers. If you don't like it, go to 11th and Congress in Austin and see what you can do about it. Good luck," Cutler said.

The Hays County district attorney felt Peterson and Hood's original request of a nearly $94,000 salary was too high, but Helm's request of $74,000 was more on target.

"I don't really dispute the fact that the constable, in the kind of situation we have here, should probably be making more than any of his subordinates are because his subordinates aren't supervisors," DA Wes Mau said.

Each constable will get a $6,000 increase following Friday's grievance hearing. The increases will be reflected on the upcoming Commissioner Court agenda.