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Board of supervisors OKs 3.5 percent increase – Decision not unanimous

By Staff | Jan 16, 2008

ESTHERVILLE–Numbers were flying around the board room on Tuesday morning as the Emmet County Board of Supervisors debated how much the county could increase the salaries of its elected officials for the next fiscal year.

The Emmet County Compensation Board came up with a figure of 4 percent across the board for all elected county employees at its meeting last week.

The supervisors, however, asked county auditor Bev Juhl to bring them a list of what surrounding counties and similar size counties had approved or recommended for their officials.

All but one of the board members–as of the Tuesday after the comp board’s recommendation was made–were not ready to approve a 4 percent increase.

According to the information Juhl provided the board, the figures from other counties weren’t conclusive.

“The only conclusion I could draw is that it’s all over the place,” said board chair Alan Madden.

Supervisors specifically asked about Dickinson County, which by the information provided had yet to make a decision. The board also asked about Pocahontas County which approved a 2.8 percent increase after its comp board recommended 4.3 percent.

Madden asked each board member to express where they were with a figure.

Ron Smith and Jim Jenson suggested 3.5 percent. Madden was buffeting between the 3-3.5 percent figure, while board vice chairman Randy Beaver suggested 3 percent. The only supervisor to stick firmly to the compensation board’s recommendation was Roger Anderson.

“I think it’s very realistic and very fair,” he said.

“I’m concerned with the general basic,” Beaver said, adding suggested improvements were made to the county’s communications system to the tune of $500,000–which the county would be responsible for about 65 percent of half–could affect the general fund.

Jenson said preliminary figures show the county’s portion of the improvements to be in the neighborhood of $2,500 a month or $30,000 per year for six years.

Board members agreed county valuations have improved since they were drastically cut back by the state nearly five years ago but they have not returned to where they were before that move.

Beaver proposed a 3 percent figure for elected officials also taking that into account. Ultimately the board would like to see their general fund levy decrease in the future.

Madden said the 3.5 percent figure is “reasonably secure” if the county maintains its current general fund levy.

Jenson added that 3.5 percent is consistent with cost-of-living increases for other employees, including those county’s union workers.

Anderson was the first to make a motion, recommending the board go with the comp board’s 4 percent suggestion. That motion died for lack of a second.

Smith moved to approve the 3.5 percent figure he and Jenson were firm on and Jenson seconded. A vote resulted in that motion being denied.

After more discussion, Anderson agreed to compromise at 3.5 percent and the board approved the measure by a vote of 3-1, with Beaver dissenting and Madden not casting a vote.

The amount won’t be finalized, however, until supervisors approve the county’s fiscal year 2008-09 budget.

In other business, the board:

n Heard an update on the county mental health department’s case management and funding.

n Heard the road report from county engineer Roger Patocka.

n Received a funding request of $7,000 from Regional Transit Authority, or RIDES, for fiscal year 2008-09.

n Assessed county drainage districts.

n Reviewed 2007 salaries paid.

Contact Nathan Christophel at (712) 362-2622 or editor@esthervilledailynews.com and visit our photo sharing Web site at cu.esthervilledailynews.com