Bad time for commission to accept pay raises

We have to question the Franklin County commissioners' plan to accept a pay raise at the same time they are handing out pink slips to employees.

In the mildest of terms it seems unfair. In stronger language it's outright arrogance.

As a side note, we also wonder how that affects morale at the office. When you pass people in the hallway, how exactly do you look them in the eye when they have chosen (or been forced) to live on less, while you get a bump up the scale?

In fairness, only one of the current commissioners voted for the raise. It was approved nearly two years ago by Bob Koch and Neva Corkrum, and Corkrum no longer is on the board.

Commissioner Rick Miller opposed the increase and won't even get it until next year, and that's only if he's re-elected in the fall. Commissioner Brad Peck wasn't yet on the board when raises were approved.

No doubt prospects looked a lot rosier in the spring of 2008. The climate these days is more dismal.

Franklin County, like many governments, found itself in a staredown with the budget monster and defended itself with a scalpel.

The commissioners have cut $1.5 million from this year's budget. In the process they have eliminated 15 staff positions.

Most of the county's employees -- at least the ones who still have jobs -- are taking voluntary, or even involuntary, furloughs or pay cuts this year.

Office budgets have been cut. Travel expenses, aside from the commissioners' of course, have been severely trimmed.

Sure the $2,000 increase in the commissioners' annual salaries doesn't add up to much, but it sends a message -- to other county employees, to the taxpayer (who also is likely facing financial setbacks) and to the voters.

To say the commissioners gave themselves a pay raise this year is inaccurate, because the vote was in 2008. It's significant that commissioners didn't arrive at this decision after cutting other departments.

However, just because the pay raise was on the schedule, that doesn't mean they had to accept it. Commissioners could have voted to decline the increase.

Last week, Yakima County commissioners voted to donate their pay raises back to the county this year.

The gesture wasn't as altruistic as it sounds. The same two had voted to give all of the county's elected officials a 2.5 percent raise each year, ignoring economic reality.

It took a third commissioner who voted against the raises and vowed to give his share to charity to force the other two board members into their "donation," according to the Yakima Herald Republic.

Coerced or not, it's still a better gesture than the one Franklin County commissioners have made.

We'd rather be publishing an editorial that lauds the commissioners for commiserating with fellow county employees rather than tossing them a backhanded slap.