So I was listening to the Bob Bruce Radio Experience on WMT Monday afternoon. Monday is the day local elected officials drop by, including Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett, Mayor Pro Tem Monica Vernon and Linn County Supervisor Ben Rogers.
Rogers spent the first 4-5 minutes of the show addressing a Gazette article by Rick Smith that ran Saturday. An excerpt:
The Linn County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday unanimously approved a budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 that raises the average homeowner’s property tax about 4 percent on the county’s portion of the local property-tax bill.
The budget includes pay raises of 2.25 percent for most county employees, though union employees in the Sheriff’s Office will see a 2.95 percent salary increase.
The top elected officials — the five supervisors, county attorney, sheriff, auditor, treasurer and recorder, as well as 23 deputies whose salaries are tied to the elected officials’ salaries — will receive salary increases of about 3 percent.
The only piece of controversy in the new budget has been the decision last month by the supervisors to increase their pay an additional 25 percent, which happened when they defined their jobs as full-time instead of 80-percent time.
Rogers wasn't crazy about the fact that the article addresses both the tax hike and the supervisor pay increase. He thinks it might give folks the wrong idea, namely that the supervisors' whopping raise from $74,362 to $95,671 annually had anything to do with the tax increase. The pay increase, which adds up to about $100,000 between the five supervisors, is only a wafer-thin fraction of the budget. Hardly enough to spawn a tax increase. And besides, supervisors kept the tax rate steady. Blame the rollback and rising property valuations.
"The two are not related whatsoever," Rogers insisted of the pay and tax increases.
A few minutes later, Rogers spent another minute of airtime insisting that the article was fair, but that it's still unfair to connect raises and taxes. "We'll roll with it," Rogers said.
Later, Jeff in Alburnett called. He thinks $100,000 is a lot of money. "It doesn't seem like you guys care," Jeff said.
"I'm not trying to say $100,000 is something to yawn at," Rogers said.
I went back and listened to the 33-minute podcast of the broadcast (linked above). Of the roughly 9 or so minutes Rogers got to talk Monday, he spent about 8 minutes defending the pay increase. He did manage to squeeze in about a minute on mental health. Right at the end.
When I lamented that the board was spending precious political capital simply to give itself a raise, this is what I was talking about. When I argued that the board would hear about this move every time it confronted significant spending and tax decisions, this is what I meant. Their checks are getting fatter. And their jobs got harder.
Sure, it's unfair to suggest that taxes are going up because the board got a raise, although it is general fund money, and every dollar counts. But who was it that said politics and public opinion are driven by fairness?