Benton County commissioners have voted to hold the line on pay increases for elected officials, including themselves.
But not until after they get 3.5 percent pay increases the next two years.
The two-year freeze begins in 2013 for the commissioners, sheriff, treasurer, clerk, auditor, coroner and assessor.
The sheriff's salary will hold at $116,771. Pay for the others will freeze at $101,540.
Commissioners and county officials are receiving $94,788 this year, and will see pay increases of 3.5 percent over the next two years until the freeze begins.
The sheriff's pay is $109,006, which also will go up by 3.5 percent annually until 2013.
Salary in-creases for the commissioners don't go into effect until the year after they face re-election. That prevents them from directly voting themselves an increase.
While county officials will see a3.5 percent raise next year, Commission Chairman Jim Beaver voted against a proposed 2.76 percent cost-of-living increase next year for four employees of the Benton Clean Air Agency.
Beaver, who is one of five members on the agency's board, refused to approve the agency's 2011 budget, claiming a 2.76 percent cost-of-living increase wasn't justified.
The authority's annual budget is $576,000. Salaries account for $310,000.
Beaver challenged the cost-of-living analysis, claiming the county's review shows a negative cost of living in Benton County.
"There's more consumer price indexes out there than you can shake a stick at," said David Lauer, executive director of the clean air agency.
Lauer said he used data from across the country, and he also considered what the county has been allowing in its labor contracts.
"The county has been giving 3.5 percent as merit raises," Lauer told the Herald, saying 2.76 percent seemed reasonable.
The board decided 2-1 to approve the budget, but agreed to revisit the salary issue next month.
Nancy Aldrich of West Richland and Lynn Johnson of Benton City voted in favor of the budget. Two other board members were not present.
Lauer said the agency had a legal deadline of June 28 to approve the 2011 budget because the fiscal year begins July 1.
w John Trumbo: 582-1529; email@example.com