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Supervisors settle on 20% raise for sheriff, 5% for other elected officials

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DBR Crawford County Courthouse

New law requires increase to sheriff’s salary

The Crawford County Board of Supervisors on Monday voted to raise the salary of the county sheriff by 20% and to raise the salaries of other elected county officials by 5%.

The following is a heavily condensed and edited account of the discussion, which lasted close to 40 minutes.

The Crawford County Compensation Board initially recommended an across-the-board salary increase of 6.2% for all elected officials, but provided a revised recommendation last week that took into account a new Iowa law that requires compensation boards to use a different set of considerations when recommending salaries for county sheriffs.

The new law requires a salary comparison to law enforcement in cities of similar population to the population of the county.

The compensation board’s new recommendation was a 40% increase to the sheriff’s salary and a 10% increase for all other elected officials.

Supervisor Jeri Vogt said Delaware County’s compensation board had recommended a 6% across-the-board raise, but the county’s supervisors had not acted on it; Tama County had approved a 15% raise for their sheriff and a 6% raise for other elected officials; Hardin County’s compensation board had recommended 20% raise for their sheriff and 9% for elected officials and had not acted on it.

Deputy County Auditor Bethany Linkenhoker said Shelby County’s compensation board had initially recommended a 28% raise for their sheriff and a 5% raise for other elected officials and then made a second recommendation of 16% and 5%. The Shelby supervisors have not approved the recommendation and are waiting for union negotiations to conclude, she said.

Deputy Mike Bremser, of the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, corrected Supervisor Jean Heiden on a comment she made at last week’s salary discussion when she said she was told the City of Johnston has four deputies; Bremser said Johnston has 21 deputies. Heiden had brought up Johnston as a community of comparable size to Crawford County.

The discussion revisited several times the question of whether the supervisors could step up the sheriff’s salary over several years.

County Attorney Colin Johnson said the compensation board had talked about agreeing to a recommendation for this year and for next year

“But that defeats the purpose of the comp board meeting annually,” he said.

“We could suggest that to our representatives - to bring to the comp board - but they do not have to act on it,” said Chairman Kyle Schultz.

Johnson said a recommendation for next year would not be binding.

If the supervisors were to accept the compensation board’s recommendation, the board would not face a 40% increase next year – unless the other comparable communities also leapfrog their sheriff’s salaries ahead, Johnson said.

The legislation requiring the revised sheriffs’ salaries was vague – and all counties have to deal with the same issue, Heiden said.

Supervisor Ty Rosburg pointed out that overall department salaries would go up with the increase to elected officials’ salaries; he said the county had work to do to get the sheriff’s salary up to the midrange of comparable salaries.

Emergency Management Coordinator Greg Miller pointed out that department budgets are due.

The rounded-up cost of living inflation rate is 6% and a 3-5% raise would send elected officials backward, he said.

Miller said a lot of good people work for the county and he would hate to lose them.

The county has an excellent benefits package that adds a lot of value to salaries, Rosburg said.

Deputy County Auditor Amy Pieper pointed out that a 10% insurance premium increase is expected.

Bremser said that the county health insurance package is essentially a major medical package because of high deductibles.

“While the coverage itself is good, it’s not really all that great when you have to pay for it,” he said.

Schultz said the supervisors have tried to make health insurance fair to county employees.

Taxpayers also pay for increases to the county’s healthcare plan, Rosburg said.

“We’re also taxpayers,” Pieper said.

Linkenhoker said this year would be a good year to raise the sheriff’s salary because it would be offset by the end of the tax levy for mental health.

Johnson said he understood the board’s interest in protecting taxpayers, but said that taxpayers have been getting the benefit of a discounted sheriff for several years.

The county treasurer, recorder, and auditor are also below average for salaries, and the compensation board thinks they’re all underpaid, Pieper said.

Schultz said the compensation board had talked about a 20% raise for the sheriff but had recommended 40% because they expect the supervisors to always cut the recommendation; Johnson agreed with his assessment.

The supervisors would have to sell a raise to the public because many employees are only getting a dime or a quarter per hour raise this year, he said.

Heiden said money for raises will have to come from somewhere – and she doesn’t want to see a cut in services.

Bremser said that if the supervisors had accepted previous compensation board recommendations to raise the sheriff’s salary, a 40% raise wouldn’t be needed now.

Vogt said a 40% raise for the sheriff would be $31,680 - and that would also increase the salaries of non-union staff – so the actual increase to tax dollars would be a lot more.

It would be the sheriff’s call whether to increase non-union salaries, Schultz said.

After some additional discussion, the supervisors approved a 50% reduction to the compensation board’s recommendation on a 5-0 vote.

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