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Palo Alto Supervisors Approve Raises For Elected Officials

By Staff | Jan 24, 2008

While they were in unanimous agreement that the elected officials of Palo Alto County all do excellent work, the Palo Alto County Supervisors approved a salary increase almost half of what the county’s compensation board recommended. The action came during Tuesday’s meeting of the supervisors, but only after prolonged discussion and a 3-2 vote.

The Palo Alto County Compensation Board had approved a recommendation of 4.3 percent for the five elected officials: Auditor, Recorder, Treasurer, Attorney and Sheriff, during it’s meeting on Jan. 7. Under the Iowa Code, the county board can approve a recommendation but cannot raise it, or they can reduce a recommendation or grant no raises at all.

Tuesday’s discussion began with Supervisor Jerry Hofstad presenting his findings on elected official salaries, specifically the state average, the surrounding four-county (Clay, Emmet, Pocahontas and Kossuth) average and then the two neighboring counties closest in population to Palo Alto, those being Pocahontas and Emmet counties.

“In all of the comparisons, our elected officials are higher,” Hofstad said. “On the state average, the auditor is $414 higher, the recorder is $1,277 higher and the Treasurer is $838 higher. For the four county comparisons, our salaries are $2,896 higher, and for Emmet and Pocahontas counties, our salaries are $4,517 higher.”

Hofstad went on to point out that the deputies of the elected officials in Pocahontas, Kossuth and Clay Counties all received 80 percent of the elected official’s salary. “It appears to me in this regard, we are considerably lower than that for our deputies.”

After giving the rest of the board a few moments to digest the information, Hofstad continued. “I’d like to consider giving the deputies more in pay through the office budgets and giving nothing to the elected officials to get this back in line.”

When asked what the deputies in the various offices were receiving for salaries, County Auditor Gary Leonard answered in the range of 75 to 76 percent of the elected office holder.

After more discussion, Supervisor Ron Graettinger spoke up. “I think 4.3 percent is too high and that we should cut it back to 2.8 percent, and I’d make that a motion.”

“That’s too high,” Hofstad said.

“I want to discuss this some more,” Supervisor Ed Noonan said. “Are the elected officials already figuring budgets with salary increases?”

When an affirmative answer was given, Noonan continued. “How can they do that? How can anyone plan a budget and give a raise when we as a board haven’t even voted on raises? I’m new to all this, but I know how that makes me feel and it’s simply not acceptable to me.”

“I think we’ve got the facts and the facts are that our elected officials’ salaries are higher than those in the surrounding counties and the state average,” Supervisor Keith Wirtz said. “Don’t get me wrong – I think we have good officers, and they all have deputies that work their tails off. I’m just not sure where Palo Alto County should pay more to the officials that the other counties around us are paying.”

Hofstad noted that currently, the deputies in each office in Palo Alto County were receiving close to the average for their counterparts in the other counties. “The deputy auditor in Kossuth County makes $34,900, which is 80 percent of 43,000 and the deputy auditor in Pocahontas County makes $43,348, which is 80 percent of the auditor’s salary.”

According to Gary Leonard, deputy auditors in his office are paid $35,119.

“Gary, do you have any comment on all this?” asked Wirtz.

“I’d like to see the deputies moved back to the 80 percent, but that’s going to be tough to do,” was Leonard’s response.

After more discussion, Wirtz commented, “I think we’re too late to change things for the deputies this year.”

“The Compensation Board thought the elected officials should have more pay because of the responsibility they have,” Graettinger said. “That’s why none of the deputies in these offices want to run for the office – they don’t want the responsibility, and it costs a lot to run for office.”

“I’m not complaining about our courthouse people at all,” Writz reiterated. “Our courthouse is very good, but I’d like to see the deputies get a raise.”

“I personally would take zero if you’d give my deputies a raise,” Leonard told the board.

“I still think a fair raise is 2.8 percent,” Graettinger said. “It at least shows that we appreciate the job our officials are doing.”

The discussion continued regarding a way to get raises for the deputies, to which Board Chair Leo Goeders suggested that the Compensation Board become involved in the process.

“It just doesn’t make sense to me to put in a figure in a budget for an increase when it hasn’t been voted on,” Noonan said. “Where did that come from?”

Supervisor Ron Graettinger explained that some of the officials had asked for a sense of direction as to what to figure for raises from the board, and after visiting with individual members, they had come to a general figure of 2.8 percent. “I knew Jerry was thinking zero and I was thinking 2.8 percent,” Graettinger explained. “Keith had though 2.6 percent and Leo agreed with the 2.8 percent so that’s what we told the elected officials to work with.”

As the discussion waned, Goeders called for a second to Graettinger’s motion for a 2.8 percent raise. Wirtz offered a second and on a roll-call vote, Graettinger and Wirtz voted aye, while Hofstad and Noonan cast nay votes. Goeders broke the tie with an aye to carry the motion by a 3-2 margin.

As approved with the 2.8 percent raises, tentative salaries for the elected officials for fiscal year 2008-2009 would be as follows: Auditor, Recorder and Treasurer – $49,063.46; Attorney – $67,893.46; Sheriff – $58,953.99; Supervisors – $24,172.37.