Majority of Linn County supervisors want to return to full-time pay status

Langston: Job more complex, demanding than a decade ago

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Three became five in 2009.

And back then, the Linn County Board of Supervisors, under public pressure after a successful countywide vote to enlarge the board, cut its pay so the new five-member board would not cost so much more than a three-member board.

John Harris, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, now says the job of supervisor is a full-time one and always has been, and as a result, he says a majority of the elected supervisors want to return their pay to that of full-time employees with salaries equal to the elected county auditor, treasurer and recorder.

"It’s not a part-time job," Harris told the Linn County Compensation Board this week.

He asked the Compensation Board to voice support for the supervisors, who make final decisions on salaries, to be paid as full-time employees, which the board did.

Both Harris and Supervisor Linda Langston said the supervisors will vote on the supervisors’ pay status in the weeks ahead, and both said a majority of the five supervisors agree with the move.

"The job has changed dramatically from 10 years ago when I came on the board," Langston said. The public policy issues have gotten more complex and the job requires a knowledge of finances and technology as well as good management skills, she said.

Harris and Langston said the move to 100 percent pay might be made incrementally, though Langston added that the county’s budget likely could handle the additional cost now, a cost which would add $92,953 a year to the budget at the current salary levels.

In the current year, each supervisor is being paid $74,362 a year in salary, an amount equal to 80 percent of the $92,953 salary of the county auditor, treasurer and recorder.

Over and above the debate on the supervisors' full-time status, the Compensation Board, which is appointed by the county’s elected officials, also unanimously recommended that the county’s elected officials receive a 4 percent salary bump on July 1, 2013 and another 4 percent bump on Jan. 1, 2014, which taken together is equivalent of an increase slightly larger than 6 percent for the entire fiscal year.

The increases in salaries of the elected officials’ 23 top deputies are tied to the increases in the elected officials’ salaries.

Compensation Board members spent considerable time at this week’s annual meeting expressing concern that too few people will compete for election to county office if the current salaries don’t continue to be increased.

Linn County Auditor Joel Miller presented the Compensation Board with a breakdown of the highest-paid county employees, and he made the point that six department heads, four of which supervise fewer employees than he does as auditor, make more that the county’s elected officials, except the county attorney and sheriff.

Longtime board member Phil Klinger, a Cedar Rapids attorney, said the Board of Supervisors often reduces the salary recommendations of the Compensation Board because the supervisors "get beat up in the press" if they do otherwise.

After the Compensation Board meeting, Supervisors Harris, Langston and Brent Oleson all said the Compensation Board’s current recommendation for an annual raise in the 6 percent range is too high. They said they were looking at the range of 2 to 3 percent.

The county’s bargaining-unit employees are slated for a 2.25 percent wage increase.

Last year, the Compensation Board recommended a 4.5 percent raise for supervisors, auditor, recorder and treasurer and a 4 percent raise plus $10,000 for the attorney and sheriff. The Board of Supervisors cut those recommendations in half.

Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden, who is the county’s highest-paid employee with an annual salary of $147,833, said his salary currently is "right where it ought to be" for the county attorney in the state’s second largest county. The county attorney in Polk County, the largest county, is paid more and the one in Scott County, the state’s third largest county, is paid less than he is, Vander Sanden noted.

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