Linn supervisor pay raise looks like a done deal

It looks like the Linn County Board of Supervisors' pay raise saga is all over but the the votin.'

Four of the five supervisors, Linda Langston, Ben Rogers, Lu Barron and John Harris, expressed support Monday for a planned 25 percent pay raise, raising their salary from $74,362.98 to $92,953.73. That would bring supervisor pay to the same level as the recorder, auditor and treasurer.

Harris asked that a final vote on the pay raise be delayed until Feb. 20, to dispel the notion that supervisors are rushing the increase to passage. His colleagues agreed, so if you'd like to weigh in, you have a week. But I don't think the vote count will change.

I was at the meeting. Rick Smith has The Gazette's coverage here.

Some local folks, five to be exact, showed up to register their opposition to the increase.

Former state Rep. Renee Schulte came bearing numbers suggesting that Linn County supervisors are already paid well compared to their peers in Iowa and elsewhere. "I think you need to be more realistic," Schulte said.

Others were less subtle.

"I feel this salary increase is a betrayal to all the residents of Linn County," said Dennis Orr of Cedar Rapids. "You're not the only ones who can do the job."

But Supervisor Ben Rogers insisted that the board's performance shows why members deserve what the other elected officials get. Here's a summary of Rogers case from an email he sent to a constituent this afternoon. (I was cc'd)

Since 2009, here are some of our major accomplishments that I am most proud of:

-The County levy rate has not been increased in 3 years.

-The County levy rate is less today than it was 4 years ago and is the smallest tax rate compared to other large counties in Iowa.

-Linn County is the only county in the Midwest with an Aaa (Triple-A) bond rating from Moody’s Rating Agency.

-Over 80% of our flood recovery/rebuilding was achieved through direct and intense lobbying efforts to FEMA, the State and IJOBS grant. While these were tax payer pools of money (FEMA, State), it did not increase the tax burden on local Linn County tax payers.

-Through studious and proper oversight of our reconstruction, every single one of our building projects was under budget.

-Our budgeting for outcomes practices has leaned out the budget, created greater efficiencies and as a result, we have been able to keep taxes low without an increase for several years. We are the only county in the Midwest that incorporates innovative budgeting like Budgeting for Outcomes.

-All of our new buildings are energy efficient and employed a significant number of local laborers (union and non-union).

We have achieved all of this, and many more issues, with our full time focus. Unlike other counties like Scott and Polk, we do not employ a professional county manager to oversee the day to day operations of the county.

All very good things, done by folks earning $74,000 annually. But what benefits do we get from a 25 percent larger paycheck? Not a question that got answered Monday.

Rogers also wondered if the supervisors don't get a raise, would the other elected officials voluntarily take a 20 percent pay cut, as the supervisors did four years ago. I waited for him to add, "And no worries, you can just raise your pay 25 percent in a few years, right after you get re-elected." But he never did.

Langston argued that the board has brought money into the county through various grants and programs, including the I-JOBS funds that helped renovate and expand the county's administration building, where the supervisors have new digs.

Barron argued for "equalization" of wages with elected officials. Harris pointed out that the raise amounts to just 0.001 percent of the county's budget. So this increase is almost nothing, pencil dust, and yet, it's also enough to prompt our best and brightest to dream of being a supervisor. Supervisors plan to vote a week from Wednesday.

And it's all but certain to pass, barring unforeseen circumstances. Maybe you see something I don't.

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