DALLAS — The Polk County Compensation Committee recommended raises for all countywide elected officials in the 2020-21 budget. The increases would cost about $18,000 if approved by the county’s budget committee and adopted by the Polk County Board of Commissioners.
The committee recommended a 2.5 percent increase for the county clerk, assessor and the three commissioners. The sheriff, who by state law has to be the highest paid employee in his office, would see a 4 percent increase. The district attorney’s stipend would move from $1,250 to $1,500 per month, and the treasure would see an increase of $180 per month from $7,200 to $7,380 in the stipend for county finance duties. The responsibilities included in the treasurer’s role are compensated at $1,000, and the district attorney’s salary is paid by the state.
County administrator Greg Hansen said the county continues to close the salary gap on elected officials in surrounding and similar-sized counties. He said the county’s elected leaders work well together on behalf of the public.
“Their cooperation and dedication makes the management of the county run effectively and efficiently,” Hansen said. “Those officials tend to do more with less and yet provide a level of service that is second to none in Oregon. As a result, I believe we need to continue to narrow the gap in the disparity of our elected officials’ salaries.”
Polk County Sheriff Mark Garton spoke at the committee’s meeting on Jan. 29, saying that while he earns the most in his office, he is the lowest paid law enforcement leader in the county. He provided the committee with a spread sheet of his current salary and those of the police chiefs of Dallas, Independence, Grand Ronde and Monmouth.
The sheriff makes $9,506, less than that of chief of Dallas ($10,177), Independence ($10,655), Grand Ronde ($10,941) and Monmouth ($9,580).
Garton said he isn’t complaining about his rate of compensation, but did note that he oversees the sheriff’s patrol department and the jail for the entire county. He said he has more employees than all the other departments combined.
“I doubt that you’ve ever been shown this information, so just it’s for your own information to see how we rate,” Garton said during the meeting. “You can see how far different we are compared to the people around us.”
Committee chairman Norbert Hartmann asked if the county could provide a stipend to help make up some ground.
Hansen said sheriff’s office employees receive bonus pay for additional certifications, but the sheriff doesn’t, so that could be adjusted. He said Garton doesn’t make much more than his second in command.
“His salary at the 4 percent level would be $9,850 roughly, give or take a few dollars,” Hansen said. “You can see on this sheet that his captain is really close to him. We try to keep him $50 or $75 ahead of him, but that isn’t a lot of difference between your No. 2 and you. Obviously, he carries a lot of liability.”
However, Hansen said he preferred to address the sheriff’s salary next year, following this year’s contract negotiations with employee unions.
“Then we can look at it in a better light. I will have new numbers,” Hansen said. “That would be my preference, so, like I said, I still stick with my recommendation.
The salaries were a recommendation to the budget committee, which will meet April 7-9 to review the 2020-21 budget.
Official salaries per month
District Attorney: $1,500 (the remainder of the salary is paid by the state)