Over public objection, Linn supervisors restore pay to full-time

Board will earn $95,760 each come July 1

Rick Smith
Published: February 20 2013 | 11:33 am - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 11:43 am in
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CEDAR RAPIDS — In the face of some public complaint, the Linn County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 on Wednesday to pay themselves the same annual salary as the elected auditor, treasurer and recorder, which is currently $92,953, or 25 percent more than the supervisor’s current annual salary of $74,362.

Supervisor Brent Oleson voted no on the pay change that will take effect on July 1.

After the vote, Oleson said he had fielded many emails from constituents who told him he “knew what his salary was” when he ran unopposed for re-election last fall and so he shouldn’t change the salary now.

“And so I tried to reflect that concern in my vote,” he said.

In voting for the salary change, Supervisor Ben Rogers said the supervisors voluntarily reduced their salaries in February 2009 at a time when the five-member board was new and the city and county were recovering from the flood of June 2008.

“We didn’t understand what the workload would be like,” said Rogers, who also won a new four-year term in November along with Oleson and Linda Langston. “ ... It is not a less-than full-time job.”

The board’s chairman, John Harris, offered an apology to constituents who had contacted him, asked him not to change the supervisors’ pay status and said they would not vote for him in the future if he did.

“But this is the right time to do this and something I feel is important to do,” Harris said.

In 2009, the supervisors agreed to pay themselves 80 percent of what the auditor, treasurer and recorder earn after voters agreed to expand the board from three to five members and after some who campaigned for the expansion said they did so with the thought that five supervisors would pay themselves a smaller salary than three supervisors had earned.

State law restricts how supervisors can alter their salaries, but it does allow them to call themselves full-time or part-time and adjust their pay accordingly. So in 2009, the supervisors decided to call themselves 80-percent-time employees to quell the public criticism.

On Wednesday, supervisors Langston and Barron noted that state law, which gives the county compensation board a role in setting the salaries of a county’s elected officials, prevented the supervisors from keeping their salaries at 80 percent time once the supervisors voted to establish that they were full-time employees.

Barron said the individual supervisors do more than set policies in the county. The Linn supervisors don’t employ a professional county manager, so the supervisors also assume the administrative duties of a manager, Barron said.

More increases

In addition Wednesday to raising their salaries in line with the county auditor, treasurer and recorder, the supervisors also agreed to increase the salaries by 2 percent on July 1 and another 2 percent on Jan. 1, 2014, for the county’s elected officials including the supervisors. The move equates to just a little more than a 3 percent salary increase for the elected officials in the fiscal year beginning July 1.

As a result, the supervisors, auditor, treasurer and recorder will earn $95,760 in the fiscal year that begins on July 1. The county's two other elected officials, the county attorney and sheriff, will earn $152,298 and $125,478 respectively in the new fiscal year.

The Linn County Compensation Board — which is appointed by the supervisors and other county elected officials — had recommended an annual raise of a little more than 6 percent for the elected officials.

The county’s bargaining-unit employees are slated for a 2.25 percent wage increase.

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