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After writing half of a book on the topic of elected county official's pay raises, I thought maybe it would be better to break this down. As part of the discussion, you have to first know how they work and who created this ingenious plan.

Every year the county must hold the annual Compensation Board meeting. Now this affects only the elected officials (and 2 or 3 people under them).

How does the board get appointed?

Iowa State Law 331.905 defines the County Compensation Board.

1. There is created in each county a county compensation board which shall be composed of seven members who are residents of the county. The members of the county compensation board shall be selected as follows:

a. Two members shall be appointed by the board of supervisors.

b.One member shall be appointed by each of the following county officers: the county auditor, county attorney, county recorder, county treasurer, and county sheriff.

In short, you ask someone you really, really like to represent you. They go to this meeting probably after discussing briefly what you'd like them to do. Then after everyone gathers, everyone puts their cards on the table and says, "My guy or gal should get this percentage or flat amount for a pay raise." Only in government do you get to take a plus one to the party and then say, "Please, pretty please with sugar on top will you give me a pay raise??

Yes, this is how government works.

It's not the fault of the local officials it goes to the lawmakers in Des Moines. This isn't a new thing, and I have no idea how long Compensation Boards have been around, probably since there were county officials.

The part that hits me funny is that in most government dealings you are supposed to worry about a conflict of interest. But with Compensation Boards, they are chosen by the elected official, and if they do a good job they won't be unfriended.

What I don't understand is why don't we just eliminate the middle man, let the officials decide what they want, and present it to the Board of Supervisors. Oh, wait, the Board of Supervisors has to do the same thing. Better yet why doesn't Des Moines just come up with a formula for how the raises should be determined. A flat percentage, look at the inflation number and match that. The plan now is not fair to anyone.

The Comp Board enters the meeting room, sits down at the table, and somehow they are supposed to act all professional-like and say, "my guy/gal/friend needs a 10% pay increase."

Oh, another note. The Compensation Board is not allowed to ask about all of the other benefits that the officials are getting. So things like IPERS (retirement for government officials), health insurance, vacation time, sick days, personal days, comp time, and I'm sure there are more benefits, all add up to additional dollars in the employees' pockets. None of this matters, to this discussion.

The Compensation Board is only there to decide whether, or rather, how much the elected officials get for a pay raise.

Also tied to the pay raises are that the raises trickle down to the 2nd and 3rd person below them at a certain percentage. Oh let's just look at the Iowa law on this.

Iowa Code 331.904 - Salaries of deputies, assistants and clerks

1. a. The annual base salary of the first and second deputy officer of the office of auditor, treasurer, and recorder, the deputy in charge of the motor vehicle registration and title division, and the deputy in charge of driver's license issuance shall each be an amount not to exceed eighty-five percent of the annual salary of the deputy's principal officer. In offices where more than two deputies are required, the annual base salary of each additional deputy shall be an amount not to exceed eighty percent of the principal officer's salary. The amount of the annual base salary of each deputy shall be certified by the principal officer to the board and, if a deputy's annual base salary does not exceed the limitations specified in this subsection, the board shall certify the annual base salary to the auditor. The board shall not certify a deputy's annual base salary which exceeds the limitations of this subsection.

b. As used in this subsection, "base salary" means the basic compensation excluding overtime pay, longevity pay, shift differential pay, or other supplement pay and fringe benefits.

So every year the salary goes up of elected officials as well as the 2nd and 3rd in command. Raises for other employees in the office can also be brought up, but only during the budget discussions which are happening now. As part of the budget for each department, the official brings their suggested salary increases to the Board of Supervisors for approval.

Unlike the private sector, the elected official WILL get a pay raise that they choose. Now not always, but in general. Also note that if you can make the case to the board why you should get a mega pay raise, you'll get it. A few years ago the County Attorney brought in the figures for other counties our size and explained that he should be making more. So the board approved a much larger raise than for the others to bring the wage up to those of the attorney's equals in other counties.

Another weird function in the rules is that If for some reason the County Supervisors decide that they will NOT grant the Sheriff's 28.5% increase thanks to the "Backing the Blue Bill", but they will only give him 25%, then all of the other county employees' pay raises will be docked by the same percentage. Rather than a 10% increase, they would only get a 6.5% increase. I'm not sure what happens if the supervisors said, "Nah, let's cut him back to 10% too, I assume then all of the raises would be wiped out for everyone.

Here's another question for Des Moines, if the Supervisors feel that 10% is just too much and go down to the inflation rate which today is at 7% that would lower the Sheriff's pay I believe. So to do that, they would be breaking the new Backing the Blue law because that would also lower his raise. So if they don't they would be following that law.

The government's real job appears to be to complicate something that shouldn't be this complicated. A good suggestion would be to make any raises a voting topic for the counties at each election or a flat percentage.

Now if you are like I am, you're taking one hand and picking your jaw up off the floor and returning your jaw to its rightful position. Yep, this is how government works. I should clarify that this is just one warped way that government "works."

$10,000 FINE

Another thing our lawmakers did in Des Moines is to pass a law that if the Auditor's office, or any employee, makes an error, the Auditor PERSONALLY can be fined $10,000.

Now remember this would include election workers who are hired for one day to run the elections, I could get behind giving the Auditor a bit more for THAT added stress. Maybe there should be something discussed in the Compensation meetings that should the Auditor be fined, there would be a one-time $10,000 pay increase. But I bet they couldn't take it back the next year. Maybe Des Moines should look at this insanity and kill that law immediately. We have other laws if there is corruption.

Government is like a chess game. Counties should come up with a way to cover this if their official is innocent and one of the underlings, especially those hired one day of the year. to work, mess up and it results in a fine.

How much do residents in Benton County make?

The median income for Benton County on the census website says that we are at $67,729, and non-family income (single) is around $33,125. In VINTON the median income is $48,068, I can't find a number on non-family income, but Vinton has a pretty high poverty level at 14.2% +or - 5.2% so yeah, we aren't exactly rolling in the dough in Vinton.

In case you think that I DON'T think our officials deserve a raise, you're wrong. However, I don't think 10% is appropriate. Yes, we know that everything is tight, tell us all about that! Stick with the 3-4% given every year, that's fair.

I have to tell you. I hesitate to say anything on the topic, because well, I like our people in the courthouse. Of all the branches I cover, this branch is the easiest to get information from, they answer questions immediately, and you see the meetings on Youtube if you want to, that's the way all government offices should be run. Transparent and open. So, this has nothing to do with whether I think these folks deserve a raise. The amount just made my eyebrows, well, hit my hairline.

The final decision for pay raises will be up to the Supervisors to decide whether our county should spring for 10% increases...on the heels of buying $9 million dollars in radio communications equipment,

I'm just saying.

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Tom Moiler January 21, 2022, 2:11 pm That sums it up.
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