December 13, 2001

County Payroll Stays Put While Neighboring Elected Officials Give Themselves Big Raises

While officials in two neighboring counties will be getting a Christmas gift in their paychecks soon, Scotland County will be staying at the current pay level for its 11elected officials for at least another two years.

December 1 came and went without a majority of the elected officials requesting a salary committee meeting to review payroll issues for the positions of the three commissioners, the sheriff, treasurer, county clerk, assessor, prosecuting attorney, coroner or public administrator.

County Clerk Betty Lodewegen indicated that under Missouri statute 50.333, each Missouri county is required to hold a salary committee meeting every two years only if the circuit clerk of the county receives written requests from a majority of the office holders, which would be six in Scotland County.

The statute also notes that if no meeting is held, or if the committee fails to come to an agreement by December 15 the salary level will remain unchanged. This state policy has been in effect since 1987 when the law was enacted by the Missouri General Assembly that mandated counties control pay rates for elected officials.

For Scotland County that means county officials will be paid at 75 percent of the maximum salary level established by Missouri statute. This pay level is based solely on assessed valuation for the county. That represents the same rate as established by the 1999 salary committee agreement.

Similar meetings in neighboring counties have resulted in pay increases for at least two governmental bodies. According to a December 2 article by Edward Husar in the Quincy Herald-Whig, both Knox and Clark counties will raise elected official pay rates to 100 percent.

To the west, Schuyler County reportedly will remain at its established rate of 76 percent. That keeps the pay rates slightly below Scotland County because Schuyler County falls into the lowest assessed valuation bracket coming in at just over $38 million assessed valuation.

Scotland County is in the second lowest valuation bracket with a current assessed valuation of $45,300,448. In this pay level bracket the state statutes set a maximum pay level of $30,000 for county clerks, collectors and assessors. The treasurer salary is capped at $22,200 while the coroner may make a maximum of $8,500. The top sheriff salary is $37,000 while the prosecuting attorney can be the highest paid official at $38,000. The commissioners may make up to $19,800 with presiding commissioner allowed to go $2,000 over that figure. Lastly is the public administrator who may make up to $15,000. The later pay level is based partially on the number of wards the administrator office has had in previous years.

The current salary levels are based on 75 percent of these maximum rates. That rate was set by the 1999 salary committee. Prior to that the 1997 committee had set salary rates at 65.5 percent.

Lodewegen explained that the salary structure is not totally based on the percentage. She noted that some salaries are higher than that amount because the office holders were already making a higher pay rate prior to the 1997 salary committee decision. The committee could not lower salaries of existing office holders. She added that the 75 percent level brings most of these pay rates into close proximity, which was a priority of the group that met in 1999.

Despite approving the pay increase back in 1999 some offices will not receive the hike until the current term is completed. Those officials that took office in 2000 have received the increase while the remainder that take office in 2002 will receive the increase then.

Currently the collector makes $28,082, the clerk is paid $23,326, and the assessor gets $25,156. The sheriff is paid $28,501, while the coroner receives $6,429 and the associate commissioners get $15,317.

Those salaries that will go up to the 1999 approved level when the new term begins in 2002 are the prosecuting attorney ($26,579) that will raise to $28,500; the treasurer ($15,501) that will raise to $16,500; and the presiding county commissioner ($15,895) which will raise to $17,317.

These salaries will all lag behind those being paid in Clark and Knox counties after their recent moves to 100 percent payment. For example, in Clark County the sheriff will be paid $39,000 while the same job will pay $37,000 in Knox County. That represents pay increases of more than $10,000 for each position.

Neither salary committee vote in Knox and Clark County was unanimous, with the later narrowly passing by a 6-5 margin. The decenting votes in each region seemed to agree that the salary increases would cause financial hardship for the counties. In Clark County the move will mean an added cost of more than $40,000 when all the raises are in place after the 2002 elections.

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