Van Buren approves 4.5 percent average raise for elected officials

KEOSAUQUA – Van Buren County Compensation Board approved recommendations averaging 4.5 percent for elected county officials during their annual meeting Jan. 3.

In making his recommendation, Compensation Board Chairman Virgil Morris said he compared Van Buren to six counties that were closest in population; the next two counties above Van Buren’s and four immediately below. They were: Monroe, Worth, Adair, Ida, Fremont and Pocahontas. Morris said it was hard to compare supervisor salaries because some had three supervisors and some had five supervisors. Similarly, many counties have full-time county attorneys, where Van Buren is one of the rare counties that has a part-time county attorney.

Morris said his goal was to recommend salary increases that would bring each elected county official in line with the average of those six other counties.

“I believe we have above average county officials,” Morris said. “Why not pay them at least the average?”

Morris recommended raises ranging from 1 percent for the county attorney to 8 percent for treasurer. Other percentages were 3 percent for board of supervisors and auditor, 5 percent for sheriff and 7 percent for sheriff.

Morris told county attorney Craig Miller that the one percent recommendation for his office was based on what the board had done in previous years which gave raises higher than the average for other county officials

The following are the recommended salaries:

Board of Supervisors: $29,390 ($995 extra for chairman); Sheriff: $69,040; Auditor: $58,905; Treasurer: $52,934; Recorder: $53,211; Attorney: $51,233.

The compensation board is made up of residents appointed by various officeholders. They met Jan. 3 at the county courthouse.

Voting for the recommendation were: Barbara Morris, Chris Kauffman, Virgil Morris and Jean McIntosh. Voting against were Twila Westercamp and Rex Hall.

The following office holders were present at the meeting: Bob Waugh and Dale House, supervisors; Ann Skaggs, recorder; Linda Whitten, treasurer; and Craig Miller, attorney.

After Morris presented his reasoning for the recommendations, Waugh said he was against the comparisons mentioned. “I feel the decision shouldn’t be based on someone else or county, but based on the tax base.” Morris disagreed and said, the compensation board was obligated under Iowa code to compare salaries and use that in their recommendations.

“My job is based on what the Iowa code says. I don’t get paid to do your job,” Morris said.

The Iowa code states that the board annually “shall review the compensation paid to comparable officers in other counties of this state, other states, private enterprise, and the federal government. In setting the salary of the county sheriff, the county compensation board shall consider setting the sheriff’s salary so that it is comparable to salaries paid to professional law enforcement administrators and command officers of the state patrol, the division of criminal investigation of the department of public safety, and city police agencies in this state.”

Supervisors can accept, reject or reduce by an equal percentage the compensation board’s recommendations. Supervisors can also reduce the recommended increase for their salary by any amount.

“I see you did use population of the counties, but tax base has a lot to do with it,” Waugh said.

He also said that “I didn’t run based on a paycheck, but I felt a duty to serve my county and my country. You can compare, but are not required to make a particular recommendation.”

Each office holder had an opportunity to give the compensation board information about their individual office.

Rex Hall said he would prefer giving each office holder “the same cost of living raise than to raise by a different amount for each office.”

Waugh said he favored giving raises based on a lump sum, not percentage.

“I have no problem with cost of living raises. But the cost of living increases are the same for everyone and doesn’t depend on your salary.”

Jean McIntosh said she favored having the treasurer’s salary the same as the recorder’s salary.

Morris presented information on the costs to taxpayers from the sheriff’s office.

In Monroe County, which has nearly the same population, the cost per person for law enforcement was $295.93. In Van Buren County, that amount was $161.14, he said. “Van Buren County is getting a bargain.”