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Elected Officials, Employees Receive Salary Increases

By Staff | Feb 3, 2011

The elected officials of Palo Alto County will see an increase in their paychecks for the coming fiscal year, following action by the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Feb. 1. The remainder of the county’s employees will also see an increase in their wages, commensurate with the elected officers raises.

The salary question had been left open since the Palo Alto County Compensation Board met on Dec. 3 of last year to make a recommendation. At that meeting, the Compensation Board members were all in agreement that the elected officials provided top-notch service to the residents of the county, and were deserving of a raise. After discussion, a recommendation of a two percent was approved and sent to the Board of Supervisors for action.

However, the supervisors postponed any action on setting salaries until they were able to work through the budgeting process in order to get a handle on the next year’s budget. In discussions, some members of the board had discussed the possibility of a flat dollar-amount raise, rather than a percentage increase.

During Tuesday’s board meeting, the supervisors discussed that concept with County Recorder Bonnie Whitney and County Treasurer Mary Hilfiker.

“I guess I’d like to hear the pros and cons of a flat rate increase over a percentage,” Supervisor Ed Noonan asked the two officers.

Whitney noted that in establishing her office budget, she had allotted a figure for total hours of labor for a part-time staff member. “A flat fee messes me up on my part timer, budget-wise.”

Mental Health Director Maureen Sandberg, who also has a part-time employee, pointed out that any overtime hours couldn’t be figured into a flat amount, but a percentage could be.

“I agree, a percentage rate is better and easier to work with,” Hilfiker stated.

“So you’d like everyone to get the same percentage,” Noonan said.

“First, you have to decide on what you’re going to do for the elected officials,” County Auditor Gary Leonard pointed out. “Then, you decide on the rest of the employees.”

“Remember, we want this to be fair for everyone,” Board Chair Keith Wirtz reminded everyone.

“Remember, everyone has a different meaning for the word fair,” Noonan pointed out.

“I think now that the best way to do this is to do a percentage,” Wirtz said.

“The percentage is easier to budget for,” Whitney agreed.

“Just as long as what is certified for salaries is what people get, without step raises on anniversaries,” Hilfiker added.

Supervisor Ron Graettinger moved to grant a salary increase of one and one-half percent for all elected officials for the coming fiscal year, with Supervisor Leo Goeders offering a second to the motion.

“I still think $500 and one and a half percent are awful close to the same,” Wirtz said. “But, our employees have done more than their fair share over the past couple of years, going without raises while other entities have gotten raises. I really feel they deserve this.”

Wirtz called for a roll call vote, with Graettinger and Goeders voting aye. Supervisor Jerry Hofstad voted nay along with Noonan, leaving Wirtz to break the tie. “The chair votes aye, the motion is carried 3-2.”

With the elected officials salary increase approved, Graettinger introduced a motion for the same amount increase for the remainder of the county employees, one and a half percent. Noonan offered a second for to bring about a roll call vote.

Graettinger, Goeders, Noonan and Wirtz cast aye votes, while Hofstad voted nay, giving the motion approval on a 4-1 vote.