New law requires bump in sheriff’s salary
Tedd Bliesman, representing the Crawford County Compensation Board, visited the Crawford County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to present an amended salary recommendation for elected county officials.
The following is a condensed and edited account of the discussion.
The compensation board had previously recommended an across-the-board salary increase of 6.2% for all elected officials, including the sheriff; the board was asked to revise the recommendation in light of a new Iowa law that requires compensation boards to use a different set of considerations when recommending salaries for county sheriffs.
The compensation board met on Monday of this week to reconsider the recommendation made at the November 27 meeting.
“After a considerable amount of discussion as to how to proceed on this, a motion was made and seconded to recommend a 40% increase in the sheriff’s salary (and a) 10% increase for all other departments, including the board of supervisors, and the (supervisors chairperson’s) stipend to stay at $750,” Bliesman said.
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Supervisor Kyle Schultz and Chairperson Jeri Vogt thanked the compensation board for reconvening to discuss the matter.
“It relieves any monkeys off the back of the compensation board; they did what they needed to do according to the law, and now the ball’s in our court to act on it,” Schultz said.
A lot of emails went back and forth about the issue, Bliesman said.
Schultz, who attended the compensation board meeting, said the discussion was well thought out.
Supervisor Jean Heiden said she had been gathering information about how other counties are handling the issue.
She said other counties had pointed out that the language in the new law was vague; a legislator had told her that it was not intended to be a money grab but was to “support the blue.”
Heiden said it would be prudent for the supervisors to take time to consider the new recommendation so as to come up with something fair for everyone; she said she was not prepared to take action on the recommendation on Tuesday.
said he couldn’t get behind a one-time 40% increase to the sheriff’s salary.
He also said he didn’t think the board could be bound to raise the sheriff’s salary year by year.
“The compensation board would have to re-recommend a higher percentage to the sheriff (in future years),” he said. “I don’t think we can … promise a raise for an official a year in advance.”
Heiden said she agreed with Schultz on that point.
Discussion of further increases to the sheriff’s salary would have to be taken up by the compensation board next year, he said.
Schultz proposed cutting the revised recommendations by 65%, which would result in a 14% increase to the sheriff’s salary and a 3.5% increase for the other elected officials.
Vogt said a 40% raise on the sheriff’s current salary would equal $31,680.
Schultz said that a salary of $110,000 would put the sheriff’s salary in line with the comparable salaries the compensation board used to make the recommendation.
Supervisor Ty Rosburg said he had spoken with District 18 Representative Steve Holt and he understood the legislature’s idea to “back the blue,” but pointed out that a 40% raise to the sheriff’s salary would also result in a large increase to salaries in the sheriff’s department.
He said he wanted a fair number that would not be a burden on taxpayers.
Rosburg said he liked Schultz’s recommendation but would also want to make sure the sheriff’s salary is addressed in future years.
Vogt said she had looked at numbers provided by the Iowa State Association of Counties (ISAC) concerning the salaries of sheriffs in counties of comparable size.
According to ISAC, Crawford County is number 43 in population among counties; she also looked at Clayton (41), Delaware (42), Tama (44), and Hardin (45).
Of those five counties, in the current fiscal year, the highest sheriff’s salary was $94,249 in Hardin County; the lowest was in Crawford County, at $79,200, she said.
Schultz pointed out that the numbers she presented didn’t reflect any salary changes those counties might be making for the next fiscal year due to the new law.
Vogt said she wanted to reach out to Clayton, Delaware, Tama and Hardin counties to see if their compensation boards have met.
Heiden said Shelby County had decided to phase in a raise.
“I respect that; I just don’t know if we can bind future boards with a phased-in approach,” Schultz said.
“I don’t know if we can, either,” Heiden said.
She said Holt said the legislature didn’t say when or how the supervisors had to raise the sheriff’s salary.
Supervisor Eric Skoog pointed out that staffing needs are different in every county.
Heiden said the legislation requires comparing the county to a city.
The city of the closest size was Johnston, at a population of 17,000.
She said she had contacted Johnston and was told their population is now 24,000 and they pay their sheriff more than $100,000 ($140,000, she clarified for the Bulletin and Review); their police chief is required to have a master’s degree and only has four deputies, compared to 11 for Crawford County.
A discussion ensued about whether the full population of Crawford County should be used since Denison’s 9,000 people are served by the Denison Police Department.
Deputy Mike Bremser, of the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, said the sheriff’s office patrols Denison as well as the county, and also runs the jail and conducts traffic stops and investigations in Denison.
The sheriff’s office helps reinforce the Denison Police, which does not have enough officers per capita, he said.
“We do a substantial amount of work in the City of Denison,” Bremser said.
The supervisors tabled the issue after about 20 minutes of discussion.