Friday, August 30, 2013

Commissioners cut planned salary increase

Move would save $24,000 in 2014 budget


By GREG MOORE
Express Staff Writer

Chairman Larry Schoen, center, leads a Blaine County Commission meeting earlier this year.

    Blaine County commissioners on Tuesday agreed to a 40 percent reduction in a proposed salary increase for them next year, as part of a plan to spread the raise over three years.
    The decision was the last adjustment to a tentative fiscal 2014 budget before a final budget is discussed and set on Tuesday, Sept. 3.
    In July, the commissioners included a $20,400 raise for themselves—from $61,500 this year to $81,900—as well as raises for other elected officials in 2014.        On Tuesday, they acknowledged public opposition to the raise, though they said comments they had received ranged throughout the spectrum of opinion. Schoen said he had changed his mind after hearing from people angry at a $20,000 raise in one year.
    “I get it, and frankly, I agree with it,” he said.
    Following initial discussion in which the three commissioners made three different proposals— Schoen that a $10,000 raise be phased in over three years, Jacob Greenberg that the commissioners receive no raise next year and revisit the issue then, and Angenie McCleary that the board stick with its initial decision for a $20,400 raise—the board agreed on a $12,381 raise and a three-year phase-in.
    The commissioners also disagreed whether their salaries should be placed on a “kinds and levels” chart intended to be an objective means of setting all county employees’ salaries.
    “We don’t have unanimity on any single aspect of this, but we’ve found enough compromise to find a way to move forward,” Schoen said.
    Schoen had earlier proposed a five-year phase-in, to allow voters two chances to elect new commissioners if they disagreed with the current board’s decision. However, he said he thought one election should be sufficient to decide the question. Both he and Greenberg will be up for election in 2014.
    Greenberg, who had earlier been an unapologetic supporter of a $20,400 raise, said he became convinced that the commissioners should not award themselves any salary increase next year after seeing the economic impact on local businesses caused by the Beaver Creek Fire.
    “Forestalling giving the commissioners a raise is in the best interests of the community,” he said Tuesday.
    But McCleary said that even though she agreed with his concerns, she doubted that there will ever be a really good time to take that step.
    “We’ve discussed this for two years now,” she said. “It’s my desire not to continue this debate year after year after year.”
    The figure that was finally settled on after more than an hour of discussion—$73,903—is that of the salary of a mid-level county treasurer or assessor. The initially proposed $81,900 is that of mid-level county clerk’s salary. Schoen said Tuesday that after analyzing Idaho Department of Labor statistics for managerial salaries and Blaine County incomes, he had concluded that a salary of about $72,000 is consistent with the county’s wage scale.
    The amount saved by the reduced salary increase—$24,057—will be deducted from the 2014 budget. The three-year phase-in is just a plan—it can be changed by a subsequent board of commissioners when setting each year’s budget.
Greg Moore: gmoore@mtexpress.com




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