Monroe County commissioners seek 2022 pay raise

Monroe County Commissioners appeared before Monroe County Council on Tuesday to again ask for a more substantial increase in 2022. The commissioners’ eleventh-hour plea did not elicit an immediate decision, but county council members county have until the end of this month to finalize any changes to the 2022 salaries of elected officials.

At the previous county council business session, members amended the 2022 wages ordinance for county employees and elected officials after reviewing a comprehensive wage study by Waggoner, Irwin, Scheele & Associates . Under this salary ordinance, county commissioners, who currently receive an annual salary of $46,000, are expected to receive an increase of nearly 6.3% in 2022.

During this working session, Commissioners Julie Thomas and Penny Githens expressed their disapproval of their job classification – which classified a Commissioner as a part-time non-executive position – and also argued for higher compensation in line with annual salaries. other elected officials such as as Assessor and County Recorder ($67,158 for 2022).

Previous cover: Monroe Council OKs increase for most county workers next year

On Tuesday, Thomas and Githens appeared before board members again to demand a salary of $67,158 in 2022, an increase of nearly 46% over their 2021 salary. The demand also applies to the salary of the third commissioner, fellow Democrat Lee Jones.

Githens pointed to the WIS study, which identified six other Indiana counties — Allen, Hamilton, Vigo, Tippecanoe, Elkhart and Lake — whose commissioners are ranked full-time with an average salary of $64,463.

“Since the board generally seemed to follow WIS recommendations, we thought that average would be the basis for our 2022 salary,” Githens said.

Thomas also reiterated that the role of a Monroe County commissioner is a full-time position that typically includes working weekends and late into the evening. In addition to serving on various boards and preparing individually for each meeting, commissioners also had to address long-term issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of the attempted annexation of Bloomington. .

Thomas argued that County Commissioners should be ranked as executives, like other elected officials such as the County Assessor and Recorder.

“Like other elected officials, we don’t do this job for the money. We do it because we love Monroe County and we love serving the people of Monroe County, but being treated differently than other members, other elected, is unfair,” Thomas said.

Githens echoed Thomas’ comments and asked the board to consider the impact lower pay may have on potential future candidates.

“It’s not about me. As you know, I announced my intention to run for the General Assembly,” Githens said. “I’m concerned that not offering a competitive salary will prevent the right people – people who aren’t retired, who don’t have the flexibility in their other work – from running for commissioner.”

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The county elected official’s annual compensation amount cannot be changed for the year in which the action is taken, per Indiana Code 36-2-5-13, so any further salary adjustments of 2022 must be approved this month. Once January arrives, the changes cannot be implemented until 2023.

County council responds: ‘a dramatic and difficult amount’

While agreeing with the commissioners on a few points, several council members were hesitant to fully support the requested increase.

All council members agreed that tying the job classifications of elected officials to the existing grid-like system used for county employees should be reassessed. As council members explained, the inclusion of elected officials in the salary grid system was done for administrative convenience.

“I didn’t expect these to be as meaningful to elected officials as they were and they were an administrative way to get the compensation levels we were looking for,” explained Kate Wiltz, member of the board, adding that board members should consider another classification system.

Council Member Geoff McKim agreed with the Commissioners that the position is not equivalent to a PAT D job classification, even though that is the current rating.

“I think we need to recognize this mistake and abandon a system that ties elected officials to other classifications that really have no equivalence,” McKim said.

McKim acknowledged that the council adopted most of the WIS recommendations for county employee salary increases in one package without discussing commissioners’ salaries in depth.

McKim said WIS has collected data on elected officials’ compensation from other counties, but that compensation varies widely. For example, Owen County Commissioners earn approximately $10,000 per year, while Allen County Commissioners receive over $79,000 per year. These counties’ salaries also vary depending on how the commissioners’ salaries compare to those of other county elected officials.

McKim suggested including other counties that are similar in population and degree of urbanization, such as Vanderburgh, Hendricks, and Delaware counties. If these counties are added to the original six-county dataset from the WIS study, the average commissioner salary rises to about $55,000, which is still higher than the projected increase to $48,886 in Monroe County.

“I’m convinced that commissioners are still underpaid, but not to the extent that their demand would reflect that,” McKim said.

As to whether Monroe needs full-time commissioners, McKim said he sees both sides of the argument.

“Even if we agree that it’s appropriate to have three full-time commissioners, which I’m not sure we all do, that doesn’t give us much guidance on actual salary,” McKim said.

Council member Trent Deckard said he struggled with the substantial salary increase.

“I want to be clear: This is a dramatic and difficult amount for me. It’s a struggle in different ways,” Deckard said.

Deckard pointed out that the council has increased commissioner salaries in recent years after a very stagnant period.

Annual salaries for commissioners were $35,890 each in 2020. In 2021, county commissioners received a raise of approximately $10,000; the commissioners had originally requested an increase of approximately $24,000.

Salary increase for commissioners 2021:OK County Council’s 2021 budget of $79.7 million – a decrease from this year

“I don’t want to lose what’s been done because – and I’m not saying you should be grateful for what’s been done – what I’m saying is it’s been done, and for years, it doesn’t appear that it was done,” Deckard said.

Commissioners Thomas and Githens said the $10,000 increase was described as a “down payment” by county council members on the understanding that commissioners would receive further pay increases. McKim argued that’s what’s being done right now with these extra pay raises.

Board member Cheryl Munson also spoke about the 2021 commissioner salary increase.

“I didn’t think $10,000 would be the only increase for the commissioners, but I thought it was a substantial amount, and we didn’t do it with the help of the WIS study. We did. done with the understanding between us that this was a fairer payment,” Munson said.

According to Munson, many elected officials did not receive significant pay increases under the WIS study, matching the commissioners’ own 6% increase.

“The commissioners received part of their raise a year earlier than other county employees, and I can’t just walk away from that and put that aside and say it’s not important,” said Munson.

Wiltz concluded the board’s comments with a request for additional information and more time to think about what an appropriate raise would be.

“I appreciate the hard work you all do, but at this time we don’t have a good system in place to determine which entities, external or internal, are the best comparisons. So we have a lot of thinking to do. When we under contract with WIS, the board was looking at staff – we weren’t looking at elected officials. That was not on the WIS study’s list of goals,” Wiltz said.

The county council has only one meeting scheduled this year, at 5.30 p.m. on Tuesday. Further discussion and voting on any proposed changes to commissioner raises is then expected.

Contact Rachel Smith at [email protected] or @RachelSmithNews on Twitter.

William M. Mayer