PASCO — While Franklin County commissioners have cut $1.5 million and 15 staff positions from this year’s budget, they also will be taking $2,000 annual pay raises themselves.
Other county employees — including all other elected officials — won’t be receiving any cost-of-living increases, although some will get scheduled step increases.
And to make things even more interesting, one of the commissioners — Rick Miller — will be paid almost $12,000 less than fellow board members Brad Peck and Bob Koch.
The raises follow a year in which the county struggled as tax revenues dropped because of the recession, with most employees taking involuntary or voluntary furloughs or pay cuts.
Reasons behind the pay discrepancies are complicated, but the $2,000 raise that all commissioners will get for 2010 was approved on a split vote by the commissioners in an April 23, 2008, resolution. That resolution was intended to set commissioners’ salaries at the same rate as most other elected county officials, whose pay had been increased for 2008.
The resolution, which was opposed by Miller, came after a consultant’s review recommended increasing pay for county officials.
The new base rate went into effect in 2009 for Peck and Koch after they were elected in 2008, but because Miller was in the middle of his term, he won’t get the base rate increase unless he’s re-elected later this year.
With the $2,000 annual increase and the higher base pay, Koch and Peck will receive $85,454 each this year. Miller will receive $73,635, which includes the annual increase.
In 2011, the salaries for all three commissioners are to increase to $87,590, and $89,780 in 2012, according to the April 23, 2008 resolution.
The 2007 salary study was done by the consulting company Hay Group, which compared the county’s salaries with those of similar size counties.
Salaries for other elected county officials were increased in a Dec. 31, 2007, resolution after the Hay Group study, but they will not receive any increases in 2010. The treasurer, auditor, coroner, clerk and assessor earn $83,782. The sheriff will earn $101,364, and the prosecuting attorney will receive $128,544.
Miller said he opposed the 2008 resolution that set the commissioners’ salaries because he felt the salary increases should have been done gradually to reduce the hit to the county’s budget. He also felt all commissioners should be paid the same amount.
Koch said he suggested a resolution that would have timed the commissioner increases in 2010, when the District 3 raise will occur, but it didn’t pass. The increases eventually were approved by Koch and former commissioner Neva Corkrum.
Part of the reasoning for increasing the commissioner salaries was to make sure the position attracted qualified people, Miller said. For example, in Benton County, the commissioners are paid $94,788, according to the 2010 Benton County budget.
The pay increases come despite cuts the commissioners made to their office, including two layoffs. Those were the commissioners’ secretary and a part-time human resources assistant.
“It’s a bare-bones office,” Koch said.
Now, the administrative office includes one secretary, County Administrator Fred Bowen, the three commissioners and the human resources director.
The office, with a budget of about $709,000, represents about 3 percent of the county’s $21.5 million 2010 current expense budget.Most departments took a 9 percent cut in the 2010 budget, Peck said, but the commissioners cut 11 percent from theirs.
As a result, the commissioners have tried to lighten the administrative load on their staff by moving to online documents for meetings, meeting only once a week and changing the process for meeting minutes, Peck said.
Commissioners will meet regularly Wednesday at 9 a.m., rather than twice a week. And meeting minutes will note which topics commissioners discussed at which time, as well as motions that were made, Peck said. But the actual discussions will be available from recordings made at the meetings.
Miller said commissioners also have cut office supplies they could and will be carefully watching travel expenses. Commissioner travel stayed the same overall, at about $30,000, but the staff travel budget was cut considerably, Koch said. The staff travel budget went from $18,000 in 2009 to $6,000 for 2010.
Bowen has attended National Association of Counties meetings with commissioners in the past, but they decided his attendance wasn’t necessary, Koch said.
Miller said he likely will attend all three NACO conferences this year. He is on the criminal justice and public safety committee, and is vice chairman of the courts committee. He said participating in the organization is important because NACO helps keep counties up to date on new programs and available grants.
Miller said he hopes more cuts won’t have to be made this year, but if more budget trimming is needed, offices and doors will have to be closed.
-- Kristi Pihl: 509-582-1512; firstname.lastname@example.org