Commission OKs raises for elected county officials

May 23, 2014 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Raises are in on the way for most Fremont County elected officials and likely are in store for regular employees as well.

Officials on Tuesday announced that county revenues should be about $1.5 million more than all the budget requests for the year.

Fremont County Commissioners approved a $1,500 per year raise for four years for the offices of county sheriff, assessor, treasurer, clerk, clerk of district court and attorney, representing a total 8 percent raise over four years for most, who now year $75,000 per year. It marks a 7 percent raise for the county attorney, who earns about $85,000 annually.

The new salaries would start for the next term in office for each post.

By state law, the commission must set a salary schedule for the officials every four years, so this year had to do so at the May 20 meeting, before most of the county's budget was set.

Commissioners Doug Thompson, Larry Allen and Stephanie Kessler voted for the motion. Commissioner Travis Becker voted against it, having earlier proposed smaller raises.

Commission vice-chairwoman Keja Whiteman was not present. Earlier in the meeting, she said she would support a 5 percent total raise spread over four years.

The final scheduled salaries were lower than the 3 percent a year raise for four years that elected officials requested earlier in May.

Coroner adjustment

The office of county coroner is to receive a larger raise intended to bring its salary, now at $64,000, more in line with most other elected officials. A $5,000 increase is scheduled for the coming year and $1,500 for the three subsequent, totaling about a 15 percent rise over the current wage.

Coroner Ed McAuslan asked for a raise to bring his office's salary in line with the other elected officials and noted it would not affect him much because he does not plan to run for re-election this fall.

In the past, coroner was

considered a part-time job, but now, McAuslan has said, the number of death investigations makes it a full-time position.

Kessler, Allen and Becker voted for the move. Thompson voted against it.

Commissioners decided to essentially hold their wages the same. They raised their salary $237 for next year to bring it to an even $34,000, but it is to remain at that level for the three subsequent years.

"I didn't get into this to enrich myself from the county coffers," Becker said when he proposed holding the salaries constant.

Kessler, Allen and Becker voted for the move. Thompson voted against it.

Other employees

The county board expressed support for granting raises for regular county employees, but would decide that issue later.

"I wouldn't anticipate a situation this year where the elected officials would get an increase and not the employees," Doug Thompson said.

Fremont County Clerk Julie Freese said commissioners have about $1.5 million to work with. That figure is how much anticipated revenues exceed proposed budgets in the coming fiscal year, which starts July 1 and ends June 30, 2015.

Thompson, Kessler and Allen discussed a 3 percent raise for all employees.

Freese said a 3 percent increase would cost about $600,000.

The commissioners also mentioned giving elected officials and department heads an additional 2 percent of their salary budget to distribute amongst their employees based on merit and to bring wages for some jobs closer to salaries for similar posts elsewhere.

An additional 2 percent would cost about $400,000 more.

The county board made no decisions about employee raises but likely will address the topic again.

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