Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Salary increase was an act of arrogance

Jim Bronson, Kevin Laird, John Meyer and Nancy MacNeil all live in Sun Valley. They served on a committee to review the compensation of Blaine County elected officials.


The Blaine County commissioners requested that a Citizens Committee made up of Blaine County private citizens and taxpayers review salary levels for all Blaine County elected officials, including the Blaine County commissioners.

The four individuals undersigned were members of the committee, which included a total of 10 civic-minded people with extensive educational, professional and public-sector background in the community. This letter provides factual background information pertaining to the Citizens Committee, which we hope will help Blaine County citizens better understand our analysis. It also contains opinions that represent the undersigned and does not necessarily reflect opinions of our fellow committee members.

The committee met four times and reviewed hundreds of pages of competitive salary levels for elected officials in all counties of Idaho. We also reviewed compensation levels paid to elected officials in major resort areas in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. Additionally, we reviewed the level of employee benefits provided to all Blaine County employees as compared to nationwide norms of benefits provided to other state and local government employees.

A detailed analysis of the committee’s review was presented to the Blaine County Commission on Aug. 20. We did not recommend any increase for any county elected officials, including commissioners. Our lengthy report said: “Given the current economy of Blaine County and a multitude of other issues, including the use of a county administrator and the question of clearly defining the commissioner position as part-time or full-time, the Committee does not recommend a raise at this time.” While we did not recommend a raise, as part of our analysis, we did inform the commission that some of the data indicated that on the outside a maximum increase of $3,158.12 might be considered. The committee also recommended that a review of benefits for all employees should be performed, as the level of benefits provided Blaine County employees is significantly higher as a percentage of salary when compared to national norms for state and local government employees.

Our Citizens Committee was intent upon providing an objective review of the elected officials’ salaries. Sadly, in the opinion of the undersigned, the county commissioners not only disregarded their own Citizens Committee recommendation for no commissioner salary increases, they had the arrogance to increase their own salaries from $55,434 to $61,520. Not only that, the commissioners took it upon themselves to decide that their position warranted a salary level more than $3,000 higher than the average salary that county commissioners are paid in other Idaho counties and other out-of-state resort communities selected for comparison by the Citizens Committee.

In essence, we believe the commissioners told both the Citizens Committee and Blaine County taxpayers, “We don’t care what you recommend, we want to give ourselves a raise.”

We are disappointed in the actions of the county commissioners because of their disregard for an objective comparison of salaries for the same job description across a multitude of data points.

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