Comparing counties’ compensationAll elected officials receive salaries in excess of ranking
Before arriving at percentage salary increases for Washington County elected officials, the Compensation Board looked at how Washington County compares with the other 98 counties in Iowa.
One of the board’s starting points was the fact that Washington County ranks 28th in population. However, most of the board members supported recommending salary increases above the 28th ranking.
“If our county ranks 28th in state population, is our goal to be around the 28th?” board member Keith Lazar asked.
“We’ve had discussion in the past about it not just looking at population and using that as a rank because we’ve got something 30 miles north of us that — if you’re trying to hire people, it’s a really competitive force around here,” said board member Paul Horak.
Horak went on to say that, except for the supervisors, elected officials are in career positions. This includes the positions of county attorney, auditor, recorder, sheriff and treasurer.
“I think the answer is whatever ranking it takes to get good people to run for elected office,” Horak said. “I think that’s what we really need to be extra conscious of is these career offices. You want good career people to be always running for those offices and, if we neglect the pay in that office, pretty soon there’s no attraction to run for it.”
All of the county elected officials receive salaries that are above the 28th ranking. According to the Iowa State Association of Counties Web site, which keeps track of the salaries of elected officials in all 99 counties, the county attorney is ranked 23rd, the auditor is ranked 11th, the recorder is 15th, the sheriff is 18th, the treasurer is 16th, and the supervisors are ranked 20th.
Sheriff Jerry Dunbar thinks the salaries should rank higher than just going by population.
“We’re kind of a bedroom community to Johnson County, especially our northern community,” he said. “So we have a lot of influx in and out of there. One of the big things for our county is the casino. Not every county, fortunately, has a casino. So that puts in, they’re saying, 1.5 million a year extra population in our county that we have to enforce.”
Compensation Board chairman Mike Van Osdol said there is a wide disparity among the elected officials’ salaries.
“We’ve been talking in the past about trying to bring that disparity up,” he said.
Van Osdol asked if the board would like to do a one-year approach to setting the increases, or trying to narrow the disparity over the next few years.
The board went with the one-year approach.
Van Osdol brought some statistics to the table. He said that over the last four years the county attorney has received a cumulative increase of 4.9 percent. The state average, he said, was 13.2 percent. The county auditor’s cumulative increase has been 6.4 percent, while the state average has been 8.7 percent. The recorder’s increase has been 6.4 percent and the state average, 8.4 percent. The sheriff has received 6.9 percent over four years, while the state average is 9.2 percent. In the same time frame, the treasurer has also received 6.4 percent, while the statewide average is 8.3 percent.
Van Osdol said that the board of supervisors has approved raises of 2 to 2.5 percent in the past, and that there were no raises one year.
“That doesn’t look real good that we’ve been having these declines compared to the state average,” he said.
Van Osdol also said that the public might see that the Compensation Board has recommended salary increases of 5 percent in the newspaper.
“Everybody thinks, ‘Oh, my gosh, that’s huge,’” he said. “They kind of forget we had the zero in there and we’ve had a few 1 percents and 2 percents. The average just isn’t that good in my opinion.”
While the board talked about 2 to 2.5 percent increases, the final vote approved recommendations of 2.8 percent for the supervisors, 3 percent for the auditor, recorder and treasurer; and 5 percent for the attorney and sheriff.
The board of supervisors is meeting at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10, in the county courthouse to discuss the Compensation Board’s recommendations, and to discuss departmental guidelines for the formulation of the fiscal year 2014-15.