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Linn supervisors set pay increases for elected officials
Hikes below 5%, after compensation board recommended 10% to 12%
CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn County supervisors this week unanimously approved pay raises below 5 percent for the county’s elected officials and their deputies, well below the 10 to 12 percent bumps recommended by the county compensation board.
The Linn County attorney, sheriff and their deputies will receive 4.92 percent raises. The other elected officials will receive 4.1 percent hikes in the fiscal year that begins July 1.
County Finance Director Dawn Jindrich said the raises are within a couple of hundred dollars of what the supervisors had budgeted for fiscal 2024.
The compensation board in January recommended the higher raises in a bid to recruit and retain qualified workers grappling with record inflation.
Iowa’s Back the Blue law requires the compensation board recommend sheriffs be paid “comparable to salaries paid to professional law enforcement administrators and command officers” in state agencies and cities of similar size to the county. Sheriff Brian Gardner is paid $176,062.
And County Attorney Nick Maybanks, whose salary is $199,712, asked for higher pay because the county attorney’s office is seeing an unprecedented rise in crime.
For those reasons, higher raises were recommended for those offices. than for other elected officials. The recorder, treasurer, auditor and supervisors each make $124,967.
County supervisors can either OK a compensation board’s recommendations or decrease all of them by the same amount. The board also can lower its own pay independent of the other elected officials’ salaries.
Supervisor Chair Louie Zumbach ultimately supported the pay increases because, he said, they stayed within the budget.
Zumbach campaigned against high supervisor salaries. When he was a representative in the Iowa House, the Coggon Republican introduced legislation to limit salaries for supervisors to no more than the median income in the county.
“My big disappointment is that the compensation board decides things without looking into the budget at all,” Zumbach said. “ … I have an issue with that.”
The salaries are “more than I sometimes desire,” he said, adding he doesn’t like that the salaries of deputies — the top assistants in the offices — are tied to the pay of their elected bosses.
Supervisor Ben Rogers said deciding on salaries involves complicated negotiations that the board must ultimately decide.
This has been a particularly challenging budget year, Rogers said.
The county raised its property tax levy rate by 11 cents per $1,000 to reflect inflationary costs and then had to come up with $1.7 million in last-second spending cuts because of the state’s error in calculating the property tax rollback rate — leaving local governments down millions in expected revenue.
“This is a fiscally prudent way to address salaries” that remains budget-neutral, Rogers said Monday. “ … We’re here to serve, and I think this is a meaningful number.”
Zumbach said he wanted to stay within the budget because “we’re naive if we don’t think something’ll come down the pike from the state.”
Iowa lawmakers are looking at property tax reform ideas this session, which may hamstring the ability of cities, counties and schools to collect revenue and offer services.
“We’ll probably have to make some tough decisions starting in (fiscal year) ’25,” Jindrich said.
With “low-hanging fruit” cuts already made, the county should anticipate having to look at the program level for more cuts, she said.
“We have less control right now than we ever have in the last 25 years I’ve been here,” Jindrich said.
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