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Comp board begins work on elected official salary level recommendation

Floyd County Recorder Deb Roberts makes a presentation to the county compensation board. At her left is Deputy Travis Bartz; and at her right , taking minutes for the board, is Floyd County Auditor's Office clerk Tracy Sindt.
Floyd County Recorder Deb Roberts makes a presentation to the Floyd County Compensation Board on Monday, Dec. 3. At her left is Deputy Travis Bartz; and at her right, taking minutes for the board, is Floyd County Auditor’s Office clerk Tracy Sindt.
By Bob Steenson, 

Members of the Floyd County Compensation Board began discussing salary recommendations for elected county officials at their first meeting, held this week.

But the discussion also included some questioning of the board’s purpose and responsibilities.

Scott Tjaden, who was elected by the members as the board chairman, wondered if anyone had challenged the use of compensation boards to recommend the salaries of county elected officials.

“We all do our due diligence and say this is what we feel and we come up with a recommendation, but does that make you guys feel good?” he asked, talking to several Floyd County elected officials who were attending the meeting.

“I mean, we’re not around you day to day,” Tjaden said. “We don’t know what you do day to day. We don’t know what effort goes into the position. Really we don’t. Is it fair for us to be able to say, ‘This is what you should make’?”

County Auditor Gloria Carr said there is usually a proposal each year in the state Legislature to do away with county compensation boards, but it has never found enough support to pass.

Compensation boards are required by state code in each county in Iowa to make recommendations to the county board of supervisors regarding pay for the county elected officials — the supervisors, county attorney, sheriff, county auditor, recorder and treasurer.

Board members are required by law to “review the compensation paid to comparable officers in other counties of this state, other states, private enterprise and the federal government,” according to Iowa code.

In addition, for the sheriff, the board “shall consider setting the sheriff’s salary so that it is comparable to salaries paid to professional law enforcement administrators and command officers of the Iowa Highway Safety Patrol, the Division of Criminal Investigation of the Department of Public Safety, and city police agencies in this state.”

The compensation board, which is made up of members appointed by the elected officials, makes a recommendation on pay levels to the county board of supervisors.

The supervisors can accept the recommendation or they can reduce the proposed wage level. They cannot increase wages above the recommendation, and if they make reductions they must do so to each official by the same percentage, except that they can reduce their own wages more than the others.

Roy Schwickerath, who served four years previously as a supervisor and who was recently elected to a seat as a supervisor beginning in January, and who was attending the meeting as an observer, said one benefit of the compensation board is that it removes some friction between the supervisors and other elected officials.

“I’m not sure it is the right system, either, but I will say as a county supervisor I appreciate the job you do,” he said.

Schwickerath questioned whether it would be right for the supervisors to have complete control over the other elected officials’ salaries.

“They’re elected by the county just like we are. We don’t have any more power than they do, really, in their elected offices,” he said.

Presentations were made to the board regarding their offices by Auditor Carr, by Recorder Deb Roberts and by Deputy Travis Bartz representing the Sheriff’s Office.

Compensation Board members talked briefly about the relative salary levels, and also discussed the county’s health insurance, which had a significant cost increase for the next calendar year but which county supervisors have talked about passing along none of the cost increase to single policy holders and part of the cost increase to family policy holders.

Board member Lisa Garden said, “It’s so hard to look beyond that health insurance. It’s hard to not take that into consideration.”

Carr also presented the board with information comparing Floyd County elected officials’ salaries to those in all the other counties in the state, and highlighted differences between Floyd County and the five next bigger and the five next smaller counties based on population.

Floyd County ranks 48th in the state according to population, at almost exactly the halfway point for the 99 counties.

In the past it has been a goal of the Compensation Board to position Floyd County elected officials at about the 25th rank in the state regarding salaries.

In the current fiscal year ending June 30, 2019, here are the current salaries for Floyd County elected officials and where they rank among the state’s 99 counties:

  • Supervisors, $38,312 (each for 3) – 18th place.
  • County attorney, $99,562 – 38th place.
  • County sheriff, $86,504 – 24th place.
  • County auditor, $65,132 – 30th place.
  • County recorder, $64,913 – 24th place.
  • County treasurer, $64,913 – 26th place.

Compensation Board members are:

  • Kalen Schlader and Cheryl Erb, appointed by the supervisors.
  • Troy Jaeger, appointed by the sheriff.
  • Lisa Garden, appointed by the auditor.
  • Veronica Litterer, appointed by the recorder.
  • Scott Tjaden, appointed by the treasurer.
  • Charley Thomson, appointed by the county attorney.

The next Compensation Board meeting will be 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18, in the boardroom at the courthouse.