by Ivan Foley
There will be no pay raises for county officials who take office in 2015.
That was the majority decision of the Platte County Salary Commission, a body comprised of the county’s elected officials. The commission meets once every two years to make decisions affecting the rate of pay for the county’s elected officeholders.
The meeting, held Thursday at the administration building, affected salaries for county officials who will be elected in 2014 and take office Jan. 1, 2015.
Per the state constitution, no officeholder can receive a pay raise during the course of their term.
Thursday’s meeting was attended by nine elected officials: Gloria Boyer, recorder of deeds, who was elected to chair the meeting; Duane Soper, second district commissioner; Kevin Robinson, auditor; Jason Brown, presiding commissioner; David Cox, assessor; Mark Owen, sheriff; Rob Willard, treasurer; Toni Clemens, public administrator; and Sheila Palmer, collector.
Eric Zahnd, prosecutor, never takes part in salary commission meetings, since his salary ($116,858) is established by the state to be the same as associate circuit court judges.
Not present for the salary commission meeting were Joan Harms, county clerk; and Beverlee Roper, first district commissioner.
Those in attendance said Harms was ill. Roper, it was stated before the session began, was “on her way,” but she never made it to the meeting, which lasted 30 minutes.
There were two issues to be decided by the salary commission, as explained by Bob Shaw, county counselor, who was present. The first decision was to determine whether to make any change in base salary for elected officials. The second decision involved whether the salary commission desired to authorize the county commission to give elected officials a cost of living increase. That cost of living increase (COLA) would only be granted at the county commission’s discretion and could only be received by the officeholder after the next election for each office. Any approved COLAs would accrue until the start of the next term for each office, Shaw explained.
After Shaw’s explanation of what decisions were facing the salary commission, Willard made a motion for no increase in the base salary. His motion was seconded by Brown.
That motion was approved 8-1, meaning the eight were in favor of leaving the base salaries as is. Only Owen voted no, which was a vote in favor of a raising the base salary for the elected officials.
In regard to cost of living adjustment, Brown made a motion that there would be no COLA increase given to elected officials. Willard seconded that motion.
That’s when discussion began, with the sheriff speaking in favor of higher officeholder salaries. The sheriff and the auditor eventually casted votes for what in effect would have been the authority to grant cost of living increases for officeholders.
“We (officeholders) continue not to take COLAS, we have consistently not taken COLAS. But we have consistently given them to employees. Why do we treat ourselves differently, other than politics? It’s all about politics and who we are trying to appease rather than treating ourselves the same as employees,” Owen said.
His comment sparked an immediate comment from the presiding commissioner.
“It’s not politics. We all volunteered to run for office, we all knew what the salary was when we ran, we signed our names, we raised our hands, we were elected by the people at that rate and I think it’s not right to come in here to give ourselves salary increases and/or COLA increases,” Brown said.
Willard said he feels like employees went so long without salary increases that it would not be appropriate for officeholders to vote in favor of raising the rate of pay for their offices.
The sheriff then said he worries about the elected offices not paying enough to attract competent candidates.
“I don’t want to get to the point you hold everybody down and people don’t want to run for the office because it’s not worth it. I don’t want people running who aren’t competent to do the job because we can’t pay at a level at which you can attract competent people to run,” Owen said.
Boyer responded by saying: “Right now the problem is our staff went so long without a pay increase that to me it would seem unfair (to give increases to officeholders).”
Robinson said he wanted it clarified that the action of the salary commission would just give the county commission authority to grant a COLA to officeholders.
Shaw then explained in order to give county commissioners the authority to grant COLAs for officeholders, the salary commission must grant that authority by passing a motion to that effect. If the salary commission votes to not allow COLAs, then that authority has not been granted to the county commission.
So Brown’s motion on the floor, Shaw explained, prevented any COLA being given to the elected officials.
Brown’s motion to deny COLAs for officeholders was passed 7-2. Owen and Robinson voted no, a vote that signaled their preference for officeholder cost of living adjustments to be considered and approved.
Thursday’s action means current salaries will remain the same. Those salaries are:
Presiding commissioner, clerk, assessor, treasurer, collector, auditor, recorder, public administrator: $65,755.
First and second district county commissioners: $63,755.