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Compensation Board Recommends Raises For County Officers

By Staff | Dec 3, 2015

The Compensation Board for Palo Alto County met Tuesday, December 1 to discuss possible salary increases for the county’s elected officials for the upcoming fiscal year of 2016-17.

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; Joan Bunda of Emmetsburg, who represents the County Treasurer; Tom Stillman of Emmetsburg, who was appointed to represent the County Attorney; John Spies of Emmetsburg, who represents the County Sheriff; Dave Garrelts and Bertha Mathis, representing the County Supervisors. Audrey Baatz of Emmetsburg was named to serve as the Secretary of the group.

John Spies opened the meeting by explaining the duty of the Compensation Board is to recommend a salary range that the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors can accept or change by decreasing the recommendation. Spies also noted that the sheriffs base salary is still disproportionately lower than the surrounding counties and other law enforcement agencies in the state.

Spies then opened the floor for comments from the Comp Board members.

“We only recommend. We do not set the salaries, that is for the Board of Supervisors to determine,” Comp Board member Dave Garrelts said.

“When I was doing some research on the state of Iowa, the average salary increase, excluding agriculture, was 2.3 percent,” Comp Board member Bertha Mathis said.

“I know this always gets me reprimanded, but when we schedule our Comp Board meeting, we know nothing about what the cost of benefits would be. If it was at a more opportune time, we would be able to weigh all of it. This is not something for us to set, but it is something the county must take into account,” Garrelts said.

“I have to agree with you on that. Even though the law states that benefits are not part of the review because it is not part of salary, it still does affect your salaries. If at some point the Supervisors would ever start a copay for employees and we would recommend a five percent increase and the Supervisors only give you a two percent raise and five percent goes for insurance, you have just lost three percent,” Mathis said.

With no other comments from the Board members, Spies opened the floor for comments from the elected officials asking for a description of what their departments do.

The Auditor, Treasurer, and Recorder all receive the same salary of $53,278. Each official stated that they enjoy what they do and appreciate all that the Comp Board does. County Auditor Carmen Moser told the Board that the county currently has 24 drainage projects and have completed approximately 11 drainage projects for last year.

“We levied for $1.8 million just in drainage assessments,” Moser said. “Another thing, the state audit comments for the past five years have been reduced. Five years ago the audit comments were 11 and in 2014 had been reduced to six.”

County Recorder Sue Ruppert explained to the Board how most things start in her office before going on to the Assessor and Treasurer. Her department has also added new birth and death certificate registration system through the State so that getting either of these certificates can be done here without going to another county.

“We continue to scan images of older records of deeds, mortgages, anything on record to a land portal for the general public, abstractors, etc. If they need older information, they still need to call us, but a lot can be done right from their own home,” Ruppert said.

County Treasurer Robin Jamison told the Board that this year was the first year to do tax sales online. The Treasurer’s Office also began using a credit card machine this year as a convenience to tax payers if they wish to use it.

“Another thing I did was to change the investment policy so that we can purchase stamped drainage warrants. Right now we have one CD that makes one percent and the rest make .7 percent or below. The stamped drainage warrants we can make five percent on. So every time the Auditor’s office is going to send out stamped drainage warrants, I send out a letter stating that if you would like to get your cash now, the County would like to purchase them,” Jamison said. “Right now we have about $100,000 in stamped drainage warrants and I am hoping that increases.”

Palo Alto County Attorney Peter Hart informed the Board that he was very glad to be back in his position. He also noted that his salary of $73,000 puts him 89 out of 99 counties in the state.

Palo Alto County Sheriff Lynn Schultes put together some salary figures of law enforcement agencies in the state, showing that he is not paid comparably with other agencies in the state such as Highway Patrol and sheriffs of surrounding counties. At a salary of $66,802, Schultes is 13.9 percent lower than the state average for a sheriff, which comes to $8,816 less yearly. He also noted that a Road Trooper for the State Patrol makes 26.33 percent more, which comes to $17,593 more yearly.

At this point, a motion was made to increase elected officials salaries by four percent. In a roll call vote, Brown, Bunda and Munn voted aye with Garrelts, Stillman and Mathis voting nay. Spies, at this time, broke the time by voting aye.

In a final order of business, a salary adjustment of $2,800, in addition to the four percent increase to the Sheriff’s salary was made. In a roll call vote, the motion passed 5-2, with Garrelts and Mathis voting nay.

The recommendations of the Compensation Board will be forwarded to the County Board of Supervisors for consideration. Under the Iowa Code, The Supervisors may approve the recommendations, lower the percentage by an equal amount for all office holders, or grant no raises, but the Supervisors cannot grant raises higher than those recommended by the Compensation Board.