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No pay hike for county officials
Salary commission also says no COLAs

by Ivan Foley
Landmark editor

There will be no raise in pay for county officeholders who are elected in November 2012.

And it seems fairly certain there will be no salary increase for those same officeholders via the route known as a cost of living adjustment (COLA), either.

All this--and more--was discussed and voted on Monday during the every two year event known as a meeting of the Platte County Salary Commission.

The salary commission is made up of the county’s elected officials. By law, the group meets every two years to establish salaries for the elected positions of the county.

Eleven of the county’s elected officeholders were present for Monday’s meeting. Not present was Eric Zahnd, prosecutor, who traditionally has declined to take part in the discussions, his reasoning being that the prosecutor’s salary is actually determined by a state statute that is tied to the rate of pay for circuit court judges.

Per state law, any increases in salary cannot be taken immediately. Any raise approved cannot take effect until the start of the next term for any office. In other words, the position held by every person on the salary commission is up for reelection prior to the time a pay raise can be legally implemented.

This is designed to prevent sitting officeholders from voting themselves a salary hike.

Current annual salaries for Platte County officeholders are $65,755 for most positions, including presiding commissioner, county clerk, auditor, treasurer, collector, public administrator, recorder of deeds, and assessor.

Salaries for the associate commissioners are $63,755. The sheriff’s salary is $71,328. The prosecuting attorney’s salary is $109,366.

Monday’s salary commission meeting opened with an update on county finances. It was reported county general sales tax collections are up 4.4% from this time last year. The county’s budget had been built with a projection that general sales tax would fall by 5%.

Use tax collections are almost flat from this time last year, trending at down only .3%. The county had built its 2011 budget projecting a drop of 10% in use tax revenue.

Combined sales and use tax collections are up 2.4% from this point last year.

Auditor Kevin Robinson said sales tax collections are at $700,000 over the projection and use tax is $315,000 over projection. Expenses are $150,000 below budget, he said, adding that the projected cash carryover from 2011 into 2012 will be $1.2 million.

The first motion approved by the salary commission on Monday was made by Robinson. The motion gave county commissioners the authority to authorize cost of living increases to officeholders.

This motion passed 8-3. Voting in favor of this motion were Robinson; Kathy Dusenbery, first district commissioner; Bonnie Brown, treasurer; Sheila Palmer, collector; Gloria Boyer, recorder; Dick Anderson, sheriff; David Christian, assessor; and Terry Edwards, public administrator.
Voting against were Jason Brown, presiding commissioner; Jim Plunkett, second district commissioner; and Joan Harms, county clerk.
The authorization of the COLAS does not necessarily mean a COLA would be given. That decision would be up to the county commission.

After passage of Robinson’s motion on the COLAs, Jason Brown proposed a two-part motion. His motion was later broken into two separate questions requiring separate votes, each part voted upon separately.

Jason Brown’s first motion called for no pay increase to be given to elected officials, and his idea passed 9-2. Voting in favor (a yes vote means no salary increase) were Brown, Dusenbery, Plunkett, Palmer, Christian, Harms, Bonnie Brown, Robinson and Edwards.

Voting no to the idea of no pay increase, which can be interpreted as a vote in favor of a raise for the positions were Boyer and Anderson.

Jason Brown’s second motion called for no COLAS to be given to officeholders. After much discussion as to whether this motion was necessary based on the earlier decision in the meeting to allow county commissioners to make the decision as to whether officeholders will get a COLA, county counselor Bob Shaw determined this was a valid motion that needed to be voted upon.

This motion passed 6-5. Voting in favor (meaning no COLAS be given to officeholders) were Jason Brown, Plunkett, Dusenbery, Boyer, Palmer and Harms.

Voting opposed (in favor of the idea of COLAS being an option) were Anderson, Christian, Bonnie Brown, Robinson, and Edwards.

Some officeholders said they felt like the second motion of Brown’s--the one dealing with COLAs--was simply a recommendation the salary commission was making to the county commission.

Shortly after adjournment, Christian summed up the meeting by saying the salary commission had given county commission the authority to give officeholders COLAs, then the salary commission gave a recommendation against COLAs.

After the meeting, Brown said to him, the motion and resulting vote had clear meaning.

“The motion didn’t say ‘we recommend.’ The motion said no COLAs for officeholders,” he told The Landmark.

“What we do in these salary commission meetings really does matter. It comes down to perspective and gives the public an indication of what our governing philosophies are,” Brown said.

Brown said he worded his motions the way he did to give a clear picture of each officeholders position.

“That way the public can rest assured there are no pay increases coming and no raises disguised as COLAs for elected officials. It’s not going to happen,” Brown said.

“These salary commission meetings set a tone. It gives the public a picture of how we as elected officials think government should be run,” he added.