Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Rare workers

    It’s safe to say that people in every line of work would like to receive more money for their time and effort. But it’s a rare worker who can give himself a raise. It’s an even rarer worker who can increase his own salary by 33 percent.
    The three Blaine County commissioners are those rare workers.
    In a budget meeting last week, they increased their salaries from $61,522 to $81,900 because they say their current salaries are low compared to commissioners in similar areas, some in other states.
    Their new salaries will bring them $4,000 more than the county assessor and the treasurer—also elected positions with everyday duties and staff supervision responsibilities. The commissioners set county policy and a budget of $25 million.
    Compare this to the Blaine County School District trustees, also elected, who serve without compensation, but who are responsible for a nearly $80 million budget.
    The ground between salaries of zero and more than $80,000 with benefits is enormous. Are school board members paid too little or county commissioners too much?
    To justify the raises, the commissioners should offer the public a job description. It’s not easily apparent to the average resident what county commissioners do or don’t do. Residents need an easy way to evaluate the position, which requires setting budgets for more than 20 county departments, hearing tax appeals, indigent requests and zoning issues.
    The three commissioners insist the salaries are justified even though the county now employs an administrator who shoulders many burdens formerly carried by commissioners.
    If nothing else, let’s hope higher salaries produce a long line of great candidates in the next election.

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