County weighs 2001 salaries

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 15, 2000

How much is an elected official worth?.

Friday, December 15, 2000

How much is an elected official worth?

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Seriously. How much compensation should, in this instance, the Mower County Board of Commissioners pay themselves?

It’s December and as the fiscal year nears its end, the county commissioners must set salaries for 2001.

Not only are their salaries to be adjusted, but also those of the county attorney, auditor, recorder, sheriff and treasurer, among others.

At Tuesday’s county board meeting, Len Miller, Fourth District county commissioner, said the finance committee has not yet reached any conclusions about salaries.

Also commissioner Miller said the committee has not yet decided on what amount to adjust non-union employees’ wages and insurance benefits.

The subject of elected officials’ salaries came up on last week’s Truth In Taxation hearing and they have been discussed often before.

For 2000, the county commissioners each receive a salary of $17,500, plus $40 per diem for each meeting they must attend not including regularly scheduled county board meetings and the maximum allowed 32 1/2 cents per mile reimbursement for using their own vehicles on official county business.

They may also contribute to appropriate health insurance plans offered all county employees.

Other county elected officials annual salaries are: attorney, $73,176; auditor, $52,020; recorder, $42,470; sheriff, $58,495; and treasurer, $52,020.

The county assessor is an appointed official and receives an annual salary of $55,690.

By comparison, county department head annual salaries are: county coordinator, $62,449; planning and zoning, $57,227; court administrator, $43,634; environmental health, $50,428; highway department, $72,072; human services, $69,664; public health nursing, $58,475; recycling/hazardous waste, $52,020.

The annual salary figures are based on adjustments made April 24, when a new pay equity plan was implemented, according to Al Cordes, county human resource director.

The salaries were adjusted after an extensive study by a consultant, who specializes in such matters. The recommended adjustments were reviewed by appropriate staff and county board members and adopted.

All salaries of Mower County’s more than 250 workers are part of the public record.

Miller, who also serves as the chairman of the finance committee, said he anticipated the committee’s recommendation would be the 3 percent wage increase given others, including bargaining unit employees in their contracts.

However, that prompted Glen Jacobsen, chief deputy prosecutor for the Mower County Attorney and legal counsel to the county board to interject, "The cost of living adjustment given federal employees is 3.5 percent."

"We’ll discuss that, too, before we recommend taking any action," Miller responded.

Miller did share with fellow county board members and county coordinator Craig Oscarson the results of an Association of Minnesota Counties’ county commissioner compensation survey.

According to the survey, Mower County population of 37,582 puts it in a category with 19 other counties of similar population.

The annual salary figures range from a low of $13,712 for Lyon County commissioners to a high of $22,385 for Douglas County commissioners.

The finance committee’s recommendation should be made by end of the month, but could be delayed until January 2001 and made retroactive to the start of the new year.