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Compensation Board Recommends Four Percent Raises For County’s Elected Officials

By Staff | Dec 19, 2017

With a general agreement that Palo Alto County’s elected officials are providing very good service to the taxpayers, Palo Alto County’s Compensation Board voted to recommend raises of four percent for the elected officials in the coming fiscal year. The recommendation came following the group’s annual meeting Wednesday, Dec. 13 at the Palo Alto County Courthouse.

The Compensation Board, comprised of members John Brown, Joan Bunda, Sherman Hilfiker, Brian Bormann, Dave Garrelts, John Haywood and Ned Munn, met with the elected officials and received updates on what each official and their office provides for services to the taxpayers.

Palo Alto County Auditor Carmen Moser reported her office had prepared over $1.1 million in drainage assessments in the past year, and are involved in 23 current drainage projects. Moser also noted that in June, tax levies will be issued by her office.

“What would you propose for a raise to us?” queried John Brown.

“I would just hope that you would think I?deserve a raise for whatever is acceptable,”?Moser replied.

County Treasurer Robin Jamison noted that additional staff members in her office have been trained in the issuance of drivers’ licenses, in order to provide more service to the public. Jamison also noted that she will graduate in May from the Certified Treasurer’s School.

Palo Alto County Recorder Sue Ruppert told the group that some 2,116 documents were recorded in her office during the past year, with a large number coming from wind energy easements.

“Ive been treated extremely well the last three years by the Compensation Board to bring me back to the average of our surrounding counties,”?Sheriff Lynn Schultes said to the board members. “I’m not asking for an additional amount this year.”

Schultes shared information with the board members regarding calls for service for the Sheriff’s Office, noting that demands on the office continue to increase, but that he is proud of his staff for their continued service to the public.

“I’ve been the County Attorney a long time,” County Attorney Peter C. Hart said as he opened his remarks. “I would do this job for free if not for my three bad habits – breakfast, lunch and supper. When I started, there were just 12 full-time county attorneys in the state and now there are 65.”

Hart then presented the board members with a comparison of county attorney salaries across the state and noted that Palo Alto County is ranked 66th in the state, at the low end of County Attorney’s salaries.

“It’s very clear that Palo Alto County is the lowest, at $79,155,” Hart noted, “when the state average is $92,322. I would be happy with a 14 percent increase.”

As the board members looked at the survey results Hart had presented, Chair Ned Munn commented that it appeared Palo Alto County had been saving about $11,000 a year in salaries, based on the survey.

“Your welcome,” Hart replied.

County Supervisor Ron Graettinger noted that the supervisors try to do the best for all the people in the county.

“I don’t think we could have any better part-time help,” commented Comp Board member Dave Garrelts. “The time you spend is not indicative of all you do for us.”

Supervisor Chair Keith Wirtz noted that the county has great department heads serving the taxpayers.

Supervisor Craig Merrill agreed, noting there was a lot of mutual respect between those who serve. “It would be great to adjust everyone’s wage, but we have to be practical about it.”

As the Comp Board began to discuss ideas, it was noted that Social Security had announced a two-percent raise.

John Brown offered a motion for a five percent raise, but no second was received.

Dave Garrelts then moved for a two percent raise, but no second was received for that motion.

After a few moments, Ned Munn moved to recommend a four percent raise, and Brown offered a second. On a roll-call vote, the motion passed 6-1, with Brown, Bunda, Hilfiker, Bormann, Haywood and Munn voting aye and Garrelts casting the lone nay vote.

Garrelts then addressed the disparity in the county attorney’s salary, and asked if an additional amount could be set, as was done for the sheriff.

“We’re looking at about $3,600 a year for three years,” Garrelts said.

With little further discussion, Sherm Hilfiker moved to authorize an addition of $3,600 to the salary of County Attorney Peter C. Hart for the 2017-18 fiscal year. John Brown offered a second to the motion and on a roll-call vote, the motion was carried unanimously.

The four-percent increase would equal an additional $18,476 in salaries.

New salaries would be $80,512 for the sherriff; $59,527 for the Auditor, Recorder and Treasurer; $27,780 for the Board of Supervisors and $85,921 for the County Attorney, including the additional salary of $3,600 for the coming fiscal year.

The four-percent recommendation, along with the salary adjustment will go to the Board of Supervisors, who can approve it, reduce it or choose not to give any raises. However, the amount cannot be raised higher than the recommendation of the Compensation Board.