A reader cc’d me on an e-mail exchange with Linn County Supervisor Jim Houser over salary issues. I wrote a column Sunday criticizing the supervisors for rescinding a resolution they passed earlier this year dropping their job designation to part-time with a subsequent cut in pay, as of Jan. 1, 2009.
They approved the resolution and pay cut to diffuse a heated debate last winter over a proposed supervisor pay raise. But after getting re-elected last month, the current three-member board abruptly scrapped the deal last week.
Here’s Houser’s response to the reader:
I’m sorry for the misunderstanding you may have regarding the salaries for the Board of Supervisors. The action the board took last week does not affect our salary, but changes the boards status effective 1-!-09 from part time 32 hours per week back to full time 40 hours per week.
Rescinding the resolution keeps the position full time as it is today and the salary the same as it is today.
In determining our decision, we looked at the challenges that we have been through this year since the flood and all of the countless hours that we all have spent on the job. We also looked at the bringing on of the two new board members and the challenges facing our county in the future.
Our salaries are not set by us, nor do we set the salaries of the other elected officials. They are set by a County Compensation Board made up of seven people by whom the supervisors appoint two (of the seven) members and one each by the other elected. The only power the Board of Supervisors has on the elected official’s salaries is to accept the salary increase recommendation by the Compensation Board or reduce it in equal amounts for all the elected officials.
The Compensation Board determined years ago that the salaries of the Board of Supervisors, Auditor, Recorder and Treasurer should all be set at the same rate of pay. By doing this it was not to make any of us more or less important in our positions. Then by using the comparables as describe in the Iowa Code the Compensation Board determines our salaries. The requirements they must look at in determining the salary of the Sheriff and the County Attorney are different than all the rest of the elected officials. Thus there is a difference in their salary. The Compensation Board meets annually for salaries that take effect on July 1 of each year.
This makes our salaries split between two fiscal years and not on a calendar year. The wages paid to all the elected officials each calendar are usually a little less than stated on the salary schedule that begins on July I of each year.
I have enclosed for your review the salary schedule for this fiscal year which began this past July 1, 2008. Hope this information helps.
There are a few problems here. First, if defies logic to argue that changing the job designation has no impact on salaries. Of course it does. Remaining at part-time would mean a smaller paycheck in 09.
Second, Houser is technically right that rescinding the resolution keeps hours and pay the same as they are today. What he leaves out is that the resolution would have reduced supervisor pay between Jan. 1 and June 30. So rescinding it means the supervisors won’t be taking the pay cut they promised to take under public pressure last winter. That’s the issue here.
It’s also odd to suggest that the supervisors have no say in their salaries. Last January, had the supervisors stood up and told the compensation board to freeze or cut their pay, that’s probably what would have happened. Instead, they said nothing and let the commission approve a six percent pay hike. That’s how this whole thing started.
I understand this is politics, and it’s not unusual to use technicalities to fudge reality. But this is getting old, folks.