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County officials vote not to increase their salaries

by Ivan Foley
Landmark editor

Other than a possible cost of living increase coming after the first of the year, there won't be a pay raise for Platte County's elected officials.

That was the decision made at a meeting of the Platte County Salary Commission Tuesday afternoon. The salary commission is comprised of the county's elected officeholders, and meets every two years to discuss pay rates for themselves.

Members of the salary commission attending the meeting were First District Commissioner Michael Short (chair), Second District Commissioner Steve Wegner, Presiding Commissioner Betty Knight, Sheriff Richard Anderson, Public Administrator Janet Wooddell, Assessor Christine McQuitty, Collector Donna Nash, Treasurer Bonnie Brown, County Clerk Sandy Krohne, Auditor Sandra Thomas, Recorder Ida Cox.

Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd did not attend, as his salary would not have been affected by any action. The prosecutor's salary is set by state statute to be the same as that of an associate circuit court judge, which right now is $96,000.

Tuesday's decision will keep the salaries at $60,765 for the county clerk, public administrator, assessor, collector, treasurer, auditor, presiding commissioner, and recorder.

Salaries for the two associate commissioners will remain at $58,765.

Salary for the sheriff follows a state-determined scale and is based on the county's assessed valuation. The Platte County sheriff's salary will remain $66,095.

The state legislature establishes a salary scale for county officials, but the counties are not bound to abide by it. Platte County several years ago voted to pay its officials at the top of the salary scale, and in fact is at about 106% of the scale right now after cost of living pay increases have been given to officeholders in recent years.

The existence of a salary commission and its duties came to the public forefront in Platte County back in 1997, when a majority of officeholders voted in favor of a nearly 30% pay increase. A majority of officeholders initially passed a motion taking the raise effective immediately, but later were advised by counsel that it would violate the state constitution to do so.

The constitution does not allow for raises to be given mid-term—any pay increase cannot take effect until another election is held for the affected positions and the succeeding term begins

Tuesday's meeting was opened by Platte County Circuit Court Clerk Sandra Dowd, per state statute. Dowd is not on the salary commission, as the circuit clerk's salary is paid by the state.

The group began by re-electing Short as chairman of the salary commission.

Then came a brief report on the finances of the county, a report that must verify that the county is financially solvent. In her report, Auditor Sandra Thomas noted that sales tax collections in the county "remain flat or are down a little bit.”

Thomas speculated that sales tax collections may be flattening out after peaking with the additions of Wal-Mart and Lowes stores in the county.

Collections may have peaked, she noted, "until we get some other stuff (retail stores) in.”

Short explained options to the committee, which ranged from doing nothing to passing a motion which essentially kept things the same, or opening the floor to discussion to either raise or lower the salaries.

Anderson soon made a motion that was unanimously passed to keep the salaries as is.

The county commission is authorized to adjust compensation of county offices effective Jan. 1 of each year as a cost of living adjustment, which shall be in the form of a percentage that shall be the same for all county officers. The officeholders' cost of living increases shall not exceed the percentage given to county employees.