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Compensation Board Votes For Slight Increases

By Staff | Dec 7, 2010

Palo Alto County’s elected officials are second to none, in the opinion of the county’s Compensation Board, and are deserving of a raise for the upcoming fiscal year. A recommendation of a two percent increase for the elected officials was the result of the meeting of the Palo Alto County Compensation Board Friday afternoon, Dec. 3, at the Palo Alto County Courthouse.

All seven members of the Compensation Board were on hand for the session, along with the various elected county officials, including Lyssa Henderson, who will assume the office of Palo Alto County Attorney on Jan. 3, 2011.

After being elected chair of the board by its members, John Spies asked the group their thoughts on salaries to start the discussion.

Francis Schealler, one of two representatives of the Board of Supervisors, opened the discussion by noting, “The way conditions are, I can’t see much of a raise. Everyone should have to bite the bullet like the taxpayers are.”

Bill Zeigler, representing the county attorney, echoed Schealler’s thoughts. “I feel the same way. The wage earners are getting dumped on by the big companies and they’re not seeing increases either.”

Howard Garton, representing the county treasurer, offered a differing opinion. “I think the economy here is pretty good. This year, our local unemployment is relatively low in this county, and the farmers are going to have a good year. These people haven’t had a raise in three years and I’m afraid if we get too far behind we won’t be able to catch them up.”

Garton continued, “I think we ought to do a two percent raise. We have a good county officials, good employees and after three years, I think they deserve something to show we appreciate what they’re doing for us.”

County recorder’s representative Ned Munn also noted the lack of raises for the elected officials for three years as well. “They have sacrificed and even though taxes have gone up in the last year, it wasn’t because of their salaries.”

Allen Stangl of Ayrshire, taking part in his first meeting as a representative of the board of supervisors, asked if the office clerks were tied to the salaries of the office holders, and learned that was not the case. Office personnel were separated, or de-coupled, from the elected officials in 2008. However, in the Sheriff’s Office, the salaries of the Chief deputy and Lieutenant are tied to a percentage of the sheriff, by the Code of Iowa.

“So what are we looking at here?” asked John D. Brown, the county auditor’s representative. “Two percent?”

Garton made some quick calculations and came up with a number of approximately $8,000, or roughly $1 per resident of the county, as a cost for a two percent raise.

Brown asked if anyone on the board had received any communication or comments from the public regarding salaries. While no formal comments had been filed, it was noted that taxpayers had, for the most part, made positive comments when paying their tax bills at the county treasurer’s office.

“They’ve been appreciative of us doing what we’ve been able to do,” County Treasurer Mary Hilfiker replied.

The elected officials were then asked for their thoughts on the issue.

“I’d say we’ve gone this long and done our share,” offered Sheriff Denny Goeders. “I checked with 12 counties in the area and we were only one of three that got no raises last year. I guess I just think that we’ve really done our part to hold the line.”

Goeders also pointed out his two subordinates that were tied to his salary by the Code were younger with families and had received no raises, either, and that he felt they were deserving as well.

“I would respect the opinion of what the Compensation Board decides and recommends, and I understand that ultimately, it lies with the Board of Supervisors,” Treasurer Mary Hilfiker said. “Personally, I’m fine where I’m at, but I wouldn’t turn down a raise.”

Recorder Bonnie Whitney echoed Hilfiker’s thoughts. “I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t enjoy a raise, but I’m fine where I’m at too. But, I would rather go without a raise if a raise meant my office had to cut back on services.”

County Attorney-elect Lyssa Henderson noted that current attorney Peter Hart had done a good job bringing in additional revenue for the county in the past two years through the collection of delinquent fines, something she hoped to be able to continue and build upon. “This is no different that what has been faced in Emmet County, and I too will go along with whatever you folks recommend.”

“When you look at the taxes, the schools get the most, then the city and then the county,” Auditor Gary Leonard noted. “Those people all got raises and the county is the only entity that took a freeze. The State Legislators voted themselves a five percent raise the last day of the session. All forms of government took a raise except for county government.”

“I think our people are great and we’re lucky to have them,” Supervisor Keith Wirtz spoke up. “But, I have to disagree with Howard there’s a lot of hurt out there. People are struggling and having to cut back. For us, our insurance is paid in full and other jobs, employees pay part of that costs. That insurance is a raise of a kind for us that we have to think about.”

Supervisor Leo Goeders also praised the elected officials. “Every year, they don’t raise their budgets, even with inflation. They’re doing the job right and that’s all there is too it. I don’t think two percent is too far off at all.”

“I’d say there should be something after three years,” agreed Supervisor Ron Graettinger. “You have to look out for good people who do a good job. They don’t ask for a lot. I’d be OK without a raise, but these folks deserve something to show we appreciate their work.”

Wirtz pointed out that the Secondary Road workers had adopted a three-year contract with no salary increases, but had a provision that if the elected officials were to receive an increase, that the road workers would receive an equal increase. “That was a huge gesture of good faith on their part and was greatly appreciated.”

“Well, I’m totally in favor of raising them,” John Brown said. “I’d move to recommend a two percent raise for the elected officials.”

Bill Zeigler offered a second, and the motion was approved on a unanimous 7-0 vote of the board members.

In a final item of business, the salary for the board secretary, Marge Schmidt, was raised to $15 an hour in final action by the board before it adjourned.

With the recommendation of a two percent (2%) raise for the elected officials, the final decision on any raises will rest with Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors. The Supervisors may approve the recommendation as presented, or lower it by an equal amount for all offices, but they may not exceed the Compensation Board recommendations.