Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 20, 2014

Board calls for higher wages for county officials

By DIANE VANCE/Ledger staff writer | Dec 14, 2012

The Jefferson County Compensation Board this morning agreed to recommend to the board of supervisors varied salary increases for elected county officials.

The compensation board unanimously recommended a 2.5 percent increase for the supervisors; a 4 percent increase for all county department heads except the county attorney — the board proposed a 5 percent increase for county attorney Tim Dille.

County department heads select a county resident to represent them on the seven-member compensation board.

Board chairman Joe Smutz represents the county attorney’s office.

“Work volume has increased for the county attorney’s office,” he said. “The county has seen a 5-to-10 percent increase in felonies and many of them involve conspiracies, which means there’s more than one person involved. Tim handles 99 percent of the county’s drug cases. His office also collects court fines and he has hired a part-time person to help with collections.

“I’d like to see a significant change in salary for the county attorney,” said Smutz.

He shared documentation of comparable salaries for county attorneys in other Iowa counties with about the same populations as Jefferson County.

“Clay County and Dickinson County gave significant raises to their county attorneys. County attorneys have earned doctorate degrees,” he said.

Mel Allen, representing the sheriff’s office, said he agrees the county needs to pay its workers well and retain those doing a good job, but “We also represent taxpayers and it’s been a tough three years,” he said. “I’d think we’d all like to give all the county departments good raises, but we have to be prudent.”

Ben Huff, representing the board of supervisors at the compensation meeting, said compared to other counties with similar populations, Jefferson County lags in salaries paid.

“These salaries trickle-down a certain percent to other workers in each department,” said Allen.

Smutz said he only knows about the sheriff’s office, and in other county offices, he thinks it’s up to the department head how to allocate the salary increase.

“I know deputies can’t get a raise unless the sheriff gets a raise,” he said. “And it goes by certain amounts per rank.”

Tom Louden, representing the county treasurer, said, “So, you’re wanting to give a little more to the county attorney than others. A 5 percent or 6 percent increase will take him up to about $80,000.”

Huff said that seemed a little high for the board’s goal.

“I came here thinking to recommend a 2.5 percent increase for the supervisors and something higher for all other offices,” said Huff. “I hadn’t considered 5-to-6 percent but now, I’m thinking about it.”

Allen said Jefferson County ranks 45 among Iowa counties in population and the county attorney’s salary ranks 46.

“Tim is awesome and both county attorneys work hard and do quality work, I’m not opposed to raising their salaries,” said Allen.

“These are elected officials who are being reelected and we need to recognize that at some point,” said Smutz.

Allen said the county has quality departments in all areas.

Melva Dahl, representing the county recorder’s office, agreed, and added that none of the departments were over-staffed.

Gloria Countryman, representing the board of supervisors, said she didn’t think the sheriff’s office still had a big enough salary increase to where it should be. She agreed the board should look at giving the sheriff’s office and the county attorney’s office higher increases than the other departments.

“Of course, these are only recommendations, but it gives a direction,” she said.

Allen said he was torn.

“I really want to give a higher increase to the county attorney and sheriff,” he said. “I’m not opposed to a 4-to-5.5 percent increase. Joe [Smutz] knows his field [sheriff’s office] and I know they work very hard and handle things no one else does.

“They need to be paid for what they do but I see ramifications to our community,” said Allen. “In some departments there’s more staff. I’d like to see our percentages closer, they’re more likely to get it.”

Smutz said supervisors could only decrease the board’s recommendations by the same percentage across all departments.

“If we’re just maintaining, we’re not accomplishing a lot,” said Smutz. “The county has three departments with uncontrolled volumes of work — the engineer, the county attorney and the sheriff. The county attorney is called 24-7 to sign warrants and I’ve seen him show up at crime scenes or drug busts so he can see for himself what he had to prosecute.

“I recommend a 5.5 percent increase for the county attorney and a 4 percent increase for the sheriff’s office, then 2.5 across the board for other departments,” said Smutz.

Louden and Dahl recommended the bottom percentage be 2.75 percent.

“I’d hate to have the other departments think they aren’t doing a good job,” said Allen. “That’s not the case. We can look at higher increases next year.”

Members decided to hold off on a higher increase than the rest of the departments because there will be a change of sheriff with Jerry Drotz’s retirement in January.

One compensation board member, Andrew Edlin, who represents the auditor’s office, was absent today.

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