With an eye toward Johnson County salaries, a Story County board tried to narrow the gap. Supervisors said no.
The Story County Compensation Board made its annual salary adjustment recommendations for the county's elected officials back in December, which included 21.4% raises for the county auditor, treasurer and recorder.
Story County's Board of Supervisors reduced salary increases for the county's elected officials by 75% at a Tuesday meeting, undercutting an attempt by the county board that annually makes recommendations about salary adjustments to lessen the gap between the salaries of several Story and Johnson county officials.
The Story County Compensation Board made recommendations for salary increases for the county's elected officials back in December that included 21.4% increases to the salaries for the county auditor, treasurer and recorder with the hope of getting the officials to within 33% of the compensation levels for their Johnson County counterparts, after adjusting for differences in the counties' populations.
But as so many of the county's residents have faced financial hardship as a result of the ongoing global pandemic, the Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday that this isn't the year for big hikes in pay.
"I think we all know it's been a difficult year," supervisor Linda Murken said. "I don't think that a 21% (raise) ... is really appropriate."
The board is comprised of seven members who are each individually appointed by the county's elected officials they represent: two representing the three supervisors, and one each for the county's treasurer, sheriff, recorder, auditor and attorney. Its members are volunteers, serve four-year terms and can't also be officers or employees of the state or a political subdivision of the state. They serve only to annually make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors about salary adjustments for the eight elected county officials.
Board member John Klaus, who was appointed to the board by the supervisors, first proposed the 21% pay raises in December after comparing Story County's salaries to what officials are paid in Johnson County. While Story County's supervisors are paid about $2,000 less, the Story County attorney is paid about $9,000 less and the county sheriff about $8,000 less, the county's auditor, treasurer and recorder make about $27,000 less than their Johnson County counterparts.
Klaus said most officials requested no increase or only a small increase in pay but said he didn't take those requests into account when forming his proposal for other board members' consideration.
"Nobody wants to be asking for a raise for themselves," Klaus said. "It's my task, as a member of the compensation board, to not go by what they want to say, publicly, but to make an evidence-based decision."
Restricted in their options by a law that requires the Board of Supervisors to agree to the board's recommendations for all of the elected officials' proposed salaries' equally, rather than adjusting any — or any three — individually, Murken motioned that the supervisors reduce the recommended raises by 75% across the board.
The motion passed unanimously, reducing the supervisors' raises went from 3% to 0.75%, the county attorney's from 5.35% to 1.33% and the sheriff's from 5% to 1.25%.
The county auditor, treasurer and recorder, who earn $85,971 a year, would have had salaries of $103,267, an increase of $17,296, if the compensation board's recommendation had been approved. With the supervisors' 75% reduction, their new salaries will be $90,570, a 5.35% increase over their former salaries.
In total, the board's recommended salary increases would have amounted to $73,058 more in salary costs to Story County taxpayers; with Murken's motion, those costs will rise by just $18,250.
"My concern is I don't want to see us fall behind on their compensation and then, several years from now, be looking at another recommendation to bump another 21%," supervisor vice-chair Latifah Faisal said.
Out of consideration for the gap between Johnson and Story county officials' salaries, Faisal had suggested a 50% reduction Tuesday but ultimately voted with her fellow supervisors.
"When you're looking at some folks that have lost their jobs, businesses that have closed," board chair Lisa Heddens said Tuesday, "I kind of looked at putting all of that into consideration, as well. I would have concerns jumping up to that 50% mark."
Klaus, who will be on the compensation board again next year, said he does not foresee changing his stance during next year's recommendations, though he's always open to taking new information into account.
"I'm always open to persuasion," Klaus said. "I try to make decisions based on evidence."