Salary increase requests questioned

“Who in Todd County gets a 15 percent salary increase?” asked Commissioner Randy Neumann as the Todd County Board of Commissioners reviewed a 14.8 percent salary increase request from County Recorder Cheryl Perish.

A motion and a second were waived so that Perish could come forward and talk about her request at the Dec. 29 meeting.

Perish said that since 2007 she had been on the comparable worth salary schedule and has just followed that schedule all the way through.

She said that this year, the finance committee had a line item for the elected officials salary, so she separated it out and thought no more of it.

Then last week when Human Resources’ Karla Nalezny sent out the resolutions for the elected officials salaries she saw that she would be the only one remaining on the comparable worth schedule.

“If the other three chose not to be on it, then I would not be either,” she said.

She has worked 32 years in the Recorder’s Office and 29 of them have been as the elected recorder.

“I am not picking on Denise (Gaida, Auditor/Treasurer), but I am making a lot less than she is with 29 years in this position. I made an appeal that my salary would be the same as the auditor/treasurer,” said Perish.

She said that she has not been able to find another recorder’s office that does all of the extra things that her office has taken on including land transfers, driver’s licenses, vitals and the recorder duties.

“I felt that my five percent increase being on comp worth really wasn’t fair so I decided to go off comp worth,” she said.

She answered the question of whether it was in her budget or not, by saying that it wasn’t, but she had not been aware she could request more. She said she simply had been doing what she’d been doing since 2007.

She said now in their budgeting they are instructed to set aside severance pay where the funds will go to a dedicated fund if not spent.

“The bottom line will cover my raise with the $10,000 severance. Even by adding the $10,000, I am still the lowest paid,” she said.

Her request was for $78,843.61 for 2017. The recorder’s salary for 2016 was $68,677.97.

Commissioner Randy Neumann said that the average appointed recorder’s salary from Association of Minnesota Counties is  $78,528.95. The average elected recorder’s salary is $65,796.51.

“The others may not have the same duties as me,” Perish said.

Neumann said she would have to be the one who will report on this raise to the taxpayers.

“I have been recorder for 29 years and I make less than someone who just came in,” she said, again referring to Gaida who began as auditor/treasurer in 2014.

“But what do you get when you leave office?” asked Commissioner David Kircher.

“Nothing,” she replied.

Kircher commented that elected officials don’t get a severance package when they leave, retire or lose an election.

“This is quite a jump and it is hard for me to swallow, but this is a one-time jump. Hopefully next year we will have a better handle on it,” said Kircher.

The board approved the recorder’s request with Neumann and Chair Barb Becker opposed.

Along that same vein, the commissioners also handled the other elected officials salary increases including their own. The percentage increases went from a low of 6.64 percent to a high of 14.8 percent.

When it came to County Attorney Charles Rasmussen, Neumann asked for discussion first.

“The people I represent put it pretty plain, that we need to stop the tax increases because they can’t afford to live in Todd County anymore,” Neumann said. “It is sad. My constituents by the Stearns County line feel left out. 

“I wish these salary requests had been brought out two months ago so my constituents could have commented and called the elected officials.

“Do I believe the county attorney deserves a raise? Yes. He has a heavy workload. Is he within the realm of the other 87 counties in Minnesota? Yes. But to bring this out in the last  four to five days of the year - it puts me in an awkward position. I’m a constituent, too,” said Neumann.

He said he felt they should go with the 5.06 percent increase according to Springsted comparable worth study, two percent in January and another three percent in July.

Kircher asked if these requested amounts were budgeted. Becker said that all were except one (that was Perish’s).

“If it is in their budgets and we approved the budgets we should stick with it,” said Kircher.

Commissioner Rod Erickson said he had looked at the big picture when on the finance committee and figuring out the budgets.

He said it was really tough to make comparisons even with other counties, which he said he hated doing because everyone did different jobs even under the same title.

“In my opinion, for their service to the county, is their worth behind their request?” asked Erickson.

Neumann said that many of his constituents who are senior citizens only got a two percent increase.

“And we’re giving out an average 15 percent increase? It’s absolutely nuts. They are elected officials. It will come back to bite them. It’s appalling. Don’t ask for 15 percent when they got two percent,” said Neumann.

He made a motion that they set Rasmussen’s salary increase at 5.06 percent. With no second to the motion, it failed.

Then Erickson made a motion to approved the requested amount of $103,000 for 2017, an 8.62 percent increase. His salary in 2016 was $94,825.63. The state average salary for county attorneys  is $106,957.34.

Becker added that Rasmussen has been a lot of help this year in sitting in on personnel committee meetings and on different committees.

“I am not opposed to him getting a salary increase. I am just not happy with the transparency issues of how all this came down,” said Neumann.

Kircher said he knew they had not kept pace with other counties in their elected official salaries. He said they had cut the levy and that they are still within their budgets. He was just not happy with the wide range of percentage increases.

The board approved Rasmussen’s requested salary increase with Neumann opposed.

Auditor/Treasurer Denise Gaida also requested a salary increase.

Gaida said she had never done this process before and followed her mentor’s - County Attorney Rasmussen - recommendation of using comparable counties.

The Association of Minnesota Counties state average for comparable counties as provided by Neumann is $82,729.13

The board unanimously approved the auditor/treasurer salary request of $79,000 for 2017. Her 2016 salary was $70,738.31.

Later in the meeting, Gaida said that she will have been with the county for 29 years in March 2017, the last two years of which have been served as auditor/treasurer. She also served in a number of other areas.

Becker said Gaida has also taken on a lot of extra duties this year for human resources.

The board approved setting the County Commissioners salary at $28,560 for an 8.35 percent increase in 2017 plus $1,200 supplemental pay for the board chair. Their 2016 salary was $26,359.56.

Kircher said that theirs was a  full-time job as they were constantly going to meetings or meeting with department heads and constituents.

Lastly, the board approved a salary increase for Sheriff Don Asmus.

Kircher said that he felt the 6.64 percent increase Asmus was asking for was low and he thought they should increase it.

Gaida said Asmus would have to have the amount in his budget.

Kircher moved that they give Asmus an 8.62 percent increase which would set his salary at $86,259.63. His 2016 salary was $79,414.13. 

Neumann said the state average was $95,825.

The board unanimously approved the 8.62 percent increase.

Asmus will need to submit a budget request form at the Jan. 3 meeting to reflect the budget change.

The board also authorized a two percent general increase in the non-union employees and appointed officials in January 2017 and step increases in July 2017.

 

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