What’s ‘full pay’ for ‘full time’?

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: February 1 2013 | 12:01 am - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 10:49 am in

By The Gazette Editorial Board

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We agree with Linn County Supervisor John Harris. Being a supervisor is a full-time job.

It was a full-time job in 2008, when the then-three member Board of Supervisors cut its pay in response to loud public outcry over salary increases.

It was still a full-time job when the five-member board reaffirmed that move in 2009, leaving supervisor pay at “part-time,” or 80 percent of what other county elected officials are paid.

And it remains a full-time job now as the county board considers raising its pay from $74,362 to $92,953, or 25 percent. That’s on par with other elected officials.

So we’re puzzled that, so far, the main justification given for such a sizable increase is that supervisors’ job is full-time, not part-time. That’s already clear. It’s also clear to us, and likely a lot of county residents, that $74,362 is not the sort of salary earned for part-time work.

That leaves us with what we believe is a more important question: Is the pay increase justified?

We don’t believe that question has been adequately answered, although we’re only at the beginning of the debate. Harris, who chairs the board, says discussions on supervisors salaries will begin on March 13. He’s pledged that it will be a transparent, public process. We’re glad to hear it.

Within that open process, we’re also hoping to hear detailed explanations on how supervisors’ duties have changed in ways that might justify a major salary increase.

We’d like to understand why it should matter to taxpayers whether supervisors are paid as much as other county elected officials. It would be helpful to understand the cost of this salary increase within the context of other unmet budget needs, and alongside salaries paid to the county’s professional management staff.

Would a smaller increase be more appropriate? Could the larger increase be phased in over several years. Could raises take effect in 2015, after the next election? Many questions remain unanswered.

Basically, we’d like more explanation before we can oppose or support an increase. The supervisors reset their salary in 2008 and have operated within that level since then.

Now, they must show us why this change is needed.

We support paying public officials appropriately. But taxpayers deserve to know what they’re paying for.

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