Wage increase recommended

Compensation committee OKs 4 percent to commissioners

DALLAS — Polk County’s Compensation Board — the three nonelected citizen members of the budget committee — recommended all county elected officials receive a 4 percent hike in pay come July 2016.

The one exception may be Polk County Sheriff Mark Garton, who by law has to be the highest paid in his office. He will receive 4 percent or whatever it takes to keep his salary at the top of the sheriff’s office.

This is a recommendation only and comes months before the real work on the 2016-17 budget begins.

Last year the board, which had met in May when the budget was approved, decided to move its meeting to Jan. 13 this year.

That means its recommendation will be included in the budget and discussed when the rest of the financial plan is debated this spring.

Final approval of the recommendation is up to the Polk County Board of Commissioners, which last year approved raises for the clerk, treasurer, assessor and sheriff, but declined to increase their own pay.

The 4 percent figure isn’t what County Administrator Greg Hansen recommended.

He said elected officials salaries in Polk County continue to fall behind those in neighboring and similar-sized counties. The gap ranges from 2 percent behind for the sheriff to lagging 19 percent for the commissioners.

To make up ground, he recommended increases of: 8 percent for the commissioners; 4 percent for the clerk; 3 percent for the sheriff; 5 percent for the assessor and setting the salary for the treasurer at $1,000 following what could be a dramatic change in responsibilities for that office (for more on that see “Polk treasurer to be redefined” on page 3A).

District Attorney Aaron Felton is a state employee and his salary is paid by the state.

While many other counties do, Hansen recommended not providing additional income for Felton.

“My continuing recommendation is not adding a supplement to that because I think it’s the state’s job to pay its employees adequately,” he said.

Compensation board member Vern Wells supported Hansen’s suggestions, but the other two members, Blair Wasson and Norbert Hartmann, were hesitant to give the commissioners that big of a raise.

Hartmann said doing so may erode voter support for future levy measures, including a second public safety levy.

“If we do this, we are setting ourselves up for a very hard sell on the public safety levy the next time around,” Hartmann said. “I know that you will never catch up if you don’t start doing something, but I also know the political issue if you do it.”


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