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Compensation Board Recommends Raises For Elected Officials

By Staff | Jan 10, 2008

Palo Alto County’s elected officials could see a 4.3 percent salary increase after a recommendation made by the Palo Alto County Compensation Board Monday afternoon, Jan. 7.

All seven members of the Compensation Board were on hand to discuss salaries for the officials for the upcoming 2008-2009 Fiscal Year. Members of the Palo Alto County Compensation Board are John D. Brown of Emmetsburg, representing the County Auditor; Ned Munn of Emmetsburg, representing the County Recorder; Howard Garton of West Bend, representing the County Treasurer; John Spies of Emmetsburg, who represents the County Sheriff; Ronnie Meyer of West Bend and Francis Schealler of Graettinger, both representing the County Board of Supervisors; and Bill Zeigler of Emmetsburg, representing the County Attorney.

All of the elected office holders were on hand for the session and offered comments–County Treasurer Mary Hilfiker, County Recorder Bonnie Whitney, County Auditor Gary Leonard, County Supervisors Jerry Hofstad and Keith Wirtz, County Sheriff Dennis Goeders, and County Attorney Peter Hart.

“From the first day I took office in January ’07 through December 31, I’ve kept track of the core responsibilities that my office has handled,” said Mary Hilfiker. “Those core responsibilities include title work, vehicle registration renewals, property tax payments, and driver’s license issuance. We processed 41,623 transactions in that time. Obviously, there’s a large volume of transactions that goes through the Treasurer’s Office.”

Hilfiker continued, “Based on the amount of transactions and based on the research of my representative, Howard Garton, our figures match on what the national average regarding increases are.”

“What is it?” asked John Brown.

“Four point three percent,” Hilfiker answered.

Other elected county officials were asked for their comments.

“I’m too new at this to have an opinion, but I’m enjoying the job,” said Bonnie Whitney. “Right now, it’s a little mind boggling.”

Representing the Board of Supervisors, Keith Wirtz responded, “I’m curious to see what you do today.”

“I think we ought to hold the line myself,” added Supervisor Jerry Hofstad.

“This is the best job I’ve ever had,” said Peter Hart whose feelings were echoed by Gary Leonard.

“We’re always busy, there’s never a time when we’re not busy,” noted Leonard. “Last year we had a couple special elections to put on. With all the rules and regulations, it’s a challenge. This year, I was called into court twice to be a witness on drainage ditch issues. Whatever you guys think is fair, I’ll go with.”

Dennis Goeders stated, “I feel I’m right where I belong as far as our tax base is concerned. I’m happy with what I’m doing. I have no problem with what the board comes up with.”

Howard Garton noted that his research has shown that the cost of living increase through Social Security was 2.3 percent. He explained that if you calculate the consumer prices by month and take the last 12 months and average them together, the state average for change in ’08 is 4.3 percent.

“We’ve been in the top half as far as wages,” said Garton. “So to maintain in the middle of the top half, to keep our relative rank as far as the state is concerned, 4.3 percent is the way to go.”

“I came to the meeting with four percent in mind, so Howard isn’t far off that,” said Munn.

“I think that 4.3 percent would be appropriate,” Brown agreed.

Munn added, “Of course, it’s understood that the figure we come up with doesn’t set their salaries. It’s a cap that can’t be exceeded. It’s up to the Board of Supervisors to set salaries.”

Both Hofstad and Wirtz contested the proposed increase.

“I think it’s too much,” stated Hofstad.

“I think we need to look at Palo Alto County and how many jobs there are with the pay and benefits like those at the courthouse,” Wirtz said. “Don’t get me wrong, they do a good job. But as jobs go in the county, these are very good jobs.”

David Marks of Ruthven was in attendance at the meeting and disagreed with the proposed increase, as well.

“I think it’s totally ridiculous,” said Marks. “I think you should go backwards. You got $60,000 jobs up here–they work five days a week and no nights. And then there’s the deputy out there working nights and weekends–not knowing if he’s going to get shot at or not–and he gets $35,000. It doesn’t sound right to me.”

Brown ended the discussion with a motion to raise the elected officials salaries by 4.3 percent. The motion was quickly seconded by Zeigler and passed by the board with Schealler casting the sole “nay” vote against the increase.

Brown then moved to set the salary for the secretary, Marge Schmidt, at $12 per hour for Compensation Board duties. Spies seconded the motion, which was approved on a unanimous vote to conclude the meeting.

The Compensation Board’s recommendation will now be acted upon by the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors at a future board meeting. The supervisors may approve the recommendation without changes, may deny the recommendation, or they may lower the recommendation equally for all elected officials. The Supervisors cannot, under Iowa law, raise the recommendation of the Compensation Board.