November 17, 2005

County Salary Commission To Set Pay Scale For Local Elected Officials

The 11 elected county officials met in the commissioner’s room at the Scotland County Courthouse on November 10th to convene the meeting of the County Salary Committee.

County Treasurer LaMayra Brown was elected by the members to serve as the committee chairperson.

After reviewing the minutes from the 2003 committee meeting, the members opened discussions for establishing the salary rates for the next terms for the county commissioners, sheriff, county clerk, treasurer, assessor, coroner, public administrator, recorder and prosecuting attorney.

Brown noted that this committee’s work would be different from years past due to a change in the Missouri statutes. Unlike years past, when the state legislature established the base salaries for county officials, the county salary committees across the state will now be creating their own pay schedule.

Brown reported attending the Missouri Association of Counties meeting, along with the commissioners, and learning about Missouri Statute 50.327 that authorized the transition.

The law states “Beginning August 28, 2005, the salary commission in all counties except charter counties in this state shall be responsible for the computation of salaries of all county officials; provided, however, that any percentage salary adjustments in a county shall be equal for all such officials in that county.”

“Basically it sounds like the legislature got sick of dealing with county salaries and this law change has put the ball in our park now,” Brown said. “Now it is our responsibility to set a base salary. The old salary schedule is basically null and void.”

Brown noted the county salary committee needs to establish a base salary for the next term for all 11 elected offices. Then the committee must decide whether to pay the entire salary or to set a percentage rate to be paid of that base. In 2003 the committee established a 75-percent pay rate for the state-established base salary rates. All existing pay rates that exceeded that percent were left in place.

Previous base salary rates as set by the state were:

Presiding Commissioner - $21,800;

Associate Commissioner - $19,800;

County Clerk; Treasurer, Collector, Assessor and Recorder - $30,000;

Sheriff - $37,000;

Prosecuting Attorney - $38,000;

Coroner - $8,500;

Public Administrator - $15,000.

With the cost of living increase as allowed by the county every year except 2005, the percentage rate of salary that each officer was being paid ranged from 79-percent for the county treasurer and 80-percent for the prosecuting attorney up to 103 percent for the county collector.

Commissioner Mike Stephenson encouraged the committee to consider setting a base salary rate and eliminating the percentages as he felt that was a bit of a smoke screen to the public.

Brown presented three scenarios for committee members to consider, including establishing the pay rate for the terms beginning in 2007 and 2009 at 100-percent of the previous statutory maximum.

“Where are we going to find the money to do this?” Stephenson asked.

Brown noted that the county had experienced a balance growth from 2004 to 2005 and noted she expected the trend to continue.

County Clerk Betty Lodewegen commended the office holders for helping generate the financial recovery for the county by cutting office expenses across the board by roughly $100,000.

“According to the expenditures to date, you all have spent $92,992 less than last year and you have done that by tightening your belts and cutting costs. If you hadn’t done that we would be broke right now.”

But while the county experienced cuts in expenditures of approximately $100,000 Lodewegen pointed out that her revenue projections for 2005 were down roughly $45,000, cutting that positive balance number in half.

Brown noted that she had arrived at some different numbers when making projections for revenues.

Commissioner Paul Campbell suggested that the committee take the salary figures into consideration and reconvene again on Thursday, November 17 at 9:00 a.m. at the courthouse.

“We need to make sure we are looking at the right numbers and we must also decide if the county’s financial recovery can be controlled and projected to continue to rebound or if this was just a one-year thing,” Campbell said. We should step back and consider all the factors. We need to make sure what we do is an informed decision as it obviously will impact the county down the road when these salaries take effect in 2007 and 2009.

Stephenson noted that the meeting is open to the public and encouraged interested parties to attend.

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