Plenty of candidates for Linn elective office means no need for big salary hikes

Two-part raise equates to a 3.01 percent annual raise for the fiscal year

Rick Smith
Published: January 21 2014 | 5:51 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 2:28 am in

CEDAR RAPIDS — Members of the Linn County Compensation Board have been known to go on about how the county’s 10 elected officials need to be paid more so citizens are attracted to run for the offices.

However, retiring Linn Supervisor Lu Barron took the wind out of that argument a bit when she told the board at its annual meeting on Tuesday that there is no shortage of citizens who are lining up to run for her supervisor seat at the current salary level.

"We do have good people attracted to run for the position," Barron said.

Three candidates have announced they will run for Barron’s seat and two others have expressed an interest, County Auditor Joel Miller said on Tuesday.

Even so, the Compensation Board voted 4-2 to recommend that the 10 elected officials and about 10 top deputies receive a 2 percent salary increase on July 1 at the start of the new fiscal year and another 2 percent increase at the midpoint of the fiscal year on Jan. 1, 2015.

Steve Tucker, the county’s finance director, said the two-part raise equates to a 3.01 percent annual raise for the fiscal year.

Compensation Board member Jon Konchar recommended that the elected officials and top deputies get a raise of 2 percent to 2.25 percent after listening to Barron say that Linn County is able attract enough candidates with the current salary levels.

Board member Mary Quass said 2.5 percent might be the correct increase amount, but the board majority agreed on the 3.01 percent raise first recommended by board member Karl Kolz.

The board's chairman, Raymond Stefani II, said the higher increase was justified for county elected officials who he called "hardworking" and who he said performed their duties with "admirable modesty."

"They need to be paid and paid well for what they do," Stefani said.

At one point, Quass said the Compensation Board’s role in recommending salary levels for the county’s elected officials was "archaic" since the Linn County Board of Supervisors can lower the board’s recommendations and often does.

A year ago, the Compensation Board recommended a 6-percent increase for elected officials and top deputies, and the supervisors cut the amount in half.

Supervisor Brent Oleson asked the Compensation Board to recommend a raise for elected officials of less than 2.25 percent since the 2.25-percent amount was the size of a raise that the supervisors had in mind for the county’s managers and other non-bargaining positions and was the "placeholder" amount it was plugging into its budget for bargaining employees. Contract negotiations, though, are still underway with union employees, he said.

County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden recommended a 2-percent raise for himself, saying that his salary is correctly placed below that of the county attorney in Polk County, Iowa’s largest county, and above the county attorney in Scott County, which is third in population in Iowa behind Linn County.

Sheriff Brian Gardner said he could approve the annual 3-percent increase as recommended by Kolz, a retired former top sheriff’s deputy.

After the Compensation Board vote, Supervisor Ben Rogers pointed to the 2.25-percent raise contemplated by the supervisors for most county employees, but he said he would have to see what the total cost for the county would be with a 3-percent raise for elected officials and top deputies.

For now and as of Jan. 1, Vander Sanden earns $153,805 a year; Gardner, $126,717 a year; and the five supervisors and auditor, recorder and treasurer, $96,709 a year.

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