Commissioner salary budget set to decline

6/9/2014

With Halbur, Mayo stepping down from seats, expense would drop $8,000.

With Halbur, Mayo stepping down from seats, expense would drop $8,000.

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

The Finney County Commission on Monday reviewed the proposed budget for next year's commission salaries as part of ongoing budget hearings leading up to a budget workshop in July.

Overall, the budget for the commission is proposed to drop by about $8,000 in 2015, primarily due to members Cliff Mayo and Roman Halbur deciding to step down from the board at the end of this year.

The 2015 commission budget is proposed at $92,626, down from $100,000 this year. The commission salary line item is projected to drop to $74,524 in 2015, down from $82,387 this year.

"Hey, ours is going in the right direction. It's going down," Commissioner Larry Jones said.

"Two new commissioners saves money," County Administrator Randy Partington said. "Unless you guys want raises? The Austin Peters study did say you guys were underpaid."

Currently, entry level pay for county commissioners is $14,500 per year. However, Mayo earns $19,000 per year and Halbur takes in $17,000 per year due to their longevity on the commission. Due to longevity, Larry Jones also makes more than the entry level rate at $16,500 per year. Commissioners Dave Jones and Duane Drees are paid $14,500 per year. Five years ago, the commission decided to freeze existing members salaries and set the $14,500 rate for new members.

Commissioner Dave Jones said the commission took a $1,500 per-year, per-person pay cut five years ago, and salaries have remained stable since then. However, at some point, the commission may need to look at reinstating that money.

"Last year, I brought this up, not for me, but at some point, in order to encourage future candidates, we need to take a look at that and perhaps consider reinstating that $1,500 per position," he said.

Jones said pay is not likely a big factor for people seeking election to the commission, but there are some expenses involved in serving as a commissioner, and he doesn't want to see someone decide not to run because the pay is too low.

Former Garden City mayor and commissioner David Crase, who is running for a seat on the county commission and attended Monday's meeting, said the city commission got criticized some time ago when it increased city commissioner pay from $50 per month to $400 per month.

"I understand. People think you've only got three meetings a month, but let me tell you, when you're a commissioner or mayor, you've got a meeting just about every day," Crase said.

The county made no changes to the commissioners' proposed pay next year and took the budget request under advisement.

In other budget proposals, the County Administrator budget is proposed to remain relatively flat, from $340,197 this year to $340,296 in 2015. That budget, which includes the administrator, human resources and payroll, projects increases in the KPERS retirement fund, training and tuition costs, and travel expenses next year, but also anticipates a reduction of $17,000 in capital outlay from a new copier purchased this year.

The General and Administrative budget, which includes a variety of expense accounts across county government that are not tagged to an individual department — postage and legal publication costs, utilities, transfers, economic development incentives and various outside agency allocations that don't have their own tax levies — is projected to rise to $3,045,750 in 2015, a roughly $68,000 increase over 2014. In other business, the commission heard additional information about a possible employee benefit consultant but took no action.

Last month, the commission took under advisement a request to hire a consultant to find cost savings for employee benefits, represent the county when negotiating premiums and rates with Blue Cross Blue Shield, help research markets and find cost savings options, and provide health care reform consultation and tools to help the county stay compliant with the Affordable Care Act.

Darlene Lucas, human resources director, said she recently learned the Kansas Association of Counties also has a benefits consultant. Before the commission makes a decision, Lucas said she wants to learn more about what the KAC could offer the county.

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