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Linn Compensation Board: Raise elected officials’ salary 8%, but nearly 12% for sheriff
The panel cited last year’s government salary freeze
Citing last year’s Linn County government leaders salary freeze, a county compensation board is recommending 8 percent increases for members of the Board of Supervisors and other elected county officials, and a nearly 12 percent raise for Sheriff Brian Gardner.
Most of the county elected officials asked for some type of raises after not receiving them last year, citing more work and obstacles to overcome due to the pandemic. But at Wednesday night’s meeting of the panel, the elected officials asked for less than the recommended 8 percent — expect the sheriff’s office, which cited the “Back The Blue” bill passed year by the Iowa Legislature and signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds.
The compensation board approved recommending the 8 percent raises plus an 11.56 percent increase for sheriff. But it will be up to the Board of Supervisors to act on the recommendations, which would take affect after July 1.
The recommended raises would apply to Supervisors Ben Rogers, Stacey Walker and Louie Zumbach; County Attorney Nick Maybanks; Auditor Joel Miller; Recorder Joan McCalmant; Treasurer Sharon Gonzalez; and Sheriff Gardner. Effects of the raises would be:
- Supervisors, auditor, treasurer and recorder: from current $119,198 to about $128,734.
- Sheriff: from current $164,544 to about $183,565.
- County attorney: from current $190,492 to about $205,731.
Last year, Supervisors Rogers and Zumbach voted to freeze salaries for supervisors and other elected officials. Walker voted against, advocating that supervisors freeze their salaries but award a 2 percent increase for other elected officials.
In advocating for a raise of over $19,000 for the sheriff, discussion at the panel cited Senate File 342, known as the Back the Blue bill. The law requires county compensation boards to approve a rate “comparable to salaries paid to professional law enforcement administrators and command officers of the state patrol, the division of criminal investigation of the department of public safety, and city police chiefs employed by cities of similar population to the population of the county.” In Cedar Rapids, Police Chief Wayne Jerman earns $178,225 annually.
Rogers, chair of the supervisors, did not state a specific percentage lower than recommended for the supervisors, but said the board’s raise should be in line with other raises approved.
Compensation Board Chair Raymond Stefani II said he typically is liberal with the recommendations while he’s served on the board.
“I think all of the officials work darn hard and I appreciate that and I think they should be paid,” he said. “I think all the factors are there to give them a good, decent raise and I’m not talking just 2 or 3 percent. My thinking is higher is better than lower.”
The Compensation Board is a seven-member committee appointed by county department heads. The board reviews elected officials’ compensations in relation to other counties, states, federal government and the private sector. The Compensation Board members also cited increases in other counties, including Johnson County, which recommended an increase of 18 percent for elected officials.
Compensation Board member Karl Kolz said when the salary freeze was enacted last year, he thinks it's because the supervisors were afraid of what people would think.
“It wasn’t because the county couldn’t pay,” Kolz said. “It was because ‘I wonder what the people will think.’ If they would have had decent wages last year, maybe we wouldn’t be talking so much now.”
Rogers said that the county’s budget is healthy.
“The issue of salary is one people focus on and rightly so,” Rogers said. “We (Board of Supervisors) used to be a five-member board and why we’re not now is because there were petitions being signed and a narrative of a previous board taking salary increases at the height of the recession, and that left a horrible taste in peoples’ mouths. … The salaries have had an impact on how we govern.”
The county’s budget calls for its managers and non-collective bargaining group to get a 3 percent raise and for its largest collective bargaining unit a 2.25 percent raise.
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