IOWA LEGISLATURE

Linn County legislator wants to limit supervisors' salaries to median income

The House of Representatives chambers are seen at the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. (Andy Abeyt
The House of Representatives chambers are seen at the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
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DES MOINES — State Rep. Louie Zumbach is a “big believer” in local control, but when local officials won’t listen to their constituents, “it falls on me.”

Zumbach, a Coggon Republican, has introduced legislation to limit salaries for county supervisors to no more than the median income in the county.

In Linn County where he lives, that would be about $65,000 — far less than the current $115,726 annual salary for each of the three county board members.

His legislation has nothing to do with the possibility he’ll run for county board this fall, Zumbach said Thursday. He hasn’t made a decision on whether to seek re-election to a third term or run for supervisor.

After rebuffing pay raises for the last two years, Linn County supervisors agreed in March to accept increases worth over 11 percent — from $103,889 to $115,726 — to put the three of them on par with the annual salaries for the county recorder, auditor and treasurer.

Zumbach doesn’t think that’s what Linn County residents expect of their supervisors.

Several years ago, voters expanded the board from three to five members. Voters, at least those in rural Linn County, expected the salaries of the three supervisors to be split five ways, Zumbach said.

“It didn’t take very long before they had it jacked back up,” Zumbach said.

Then in 2018, Linn County residents voted to reduce the size of the board from five to three. Supervisors voted to freeze their pay and reject an increase recommended by the county compensation board.

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In 2019, “they promptly gave themselves another raise,” Zumbach said. “I just don’t believe that they’re listening to their constituents.”

“I’m more than willing to do it for that,” he said about the $62,000 figure, which is more than double the $25,000 a year legislators are paid. “Actually, that may be too much. I believe you’re here for service, public service.”

The Iowa State Association of Counties is registered against the bill. Others are undecided.

Linn County supervisors did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A State Government subcommittee hearing is planned for next week.

REPORT SALARIES

On a related topic, Sen. Zach Nunn, R-Altoona, has offered legislation that seeks to require each political subdivision within Iowa to issue a salary report for their employees each year by Nov. 1, similar to the state salary book that is issued on a yearly basis.

The report would have to contain the name, gender, county or city of residence, official title, salary received during the previous fiscal year, base salary and traveling and subsistence expenses of personnel who received an annual salary of not less than an amount equal to the statewide average weekly wage.

Nunn said the data required in Senate File 2072 is needed for taxpayers to be able to track pay levels for city, county and school officials, and the salary increases they receive.

“We, as Iowans, deserve to know where our tax dollars are going,” Nunn said. “We have a superintendent here in the state of Iowa who is making as much as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I’m not sure that we in reality are asking our superintendents to bear the burden of the entire U.S. military, but we are paying them at that level.”

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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