Supervisors grapple with Compensation Board recommendations

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Despite a relatively short agenda, it was a fairly long meeting for the Emmet County Board of Supervisors Tuesday, Dec. 28 when they wrangled on how to address Emmet County Compensation Board recommendations for elected officials’ raises.
As per state code, the supervisors may either approve the Comp Board recommendation of a 12 percent raise for the sheriff and 8 percent for other elected officials, approve a percentage of the recommended increase or give no raises. Supervisors have traditionally given hourly employees a commensurate raise. Typical raises over the past several years have been around 2.5 percent.
This year, the Comp Board unanimously recommended a 12 percent raise for Sheriff Mike Martens and 8 percent for other elected officials. A reason for the higher recommended raise came from Back the Blue bill, Iowa Senate File 342 signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds June 17. The bill calls for raising sheriff’s salaries to that of area police chiefs, among other measures. While the Comp Board is required to recommend the 12 percent increase to the sheriff to the supervisors, the supervisors are not required to approve that amount.
In bringing the Comp Board recommendations before the board, Emmet County Auditor Amy Sathoff said the supervisors needed to approve two resolutions – one approving Comp Board recommendations for elected officials and another for hourly employees. She said that was because auditors need a paper trail.
When Board Chair Jeff Quastad asked Sathoff when she needed the supervisors’ decision on Comp Board recommendations, Sathoff said she would prefer the board not hold off because she needed to prepare the county budget.
Emmet County Attorney Melanie Summers Bauler said Comp Board recommendations were unanimous on the 12/8 recommendation for the sheriff and other elected officials, including the supervisors’ Comp Board representatives. She said Martens has additional duties that other law-enforcement officials don’t have and that the 12 percent recommended raise was to catch him up with area police chiefs.
Supervisor Tim Schumacher said that in the past the board has not considered such a significant raise. He said the county will save $300,000 to $400,000 yearly when the mental-health levy is shifted to the state. Quastad noted though that mental health has its own levy and that the general fund levy would still be over the amount recommended by the state.
“And now we’re just shooting at the sky,” Quastad said of the higher raises. He suggested the board merely make a recommendation for budget planning and possibly change the numbers later.
Sathoff said the board usually approved Comp Board recommendations before the budget. Schumacher said if Comp Board recommendations are adjusted, it must be by a percentage. Bauler said the supervisors’ raise would be an exception. Quastad recommended the board pick a number rather than approve a formal resolution based on Comp Board recommendations.
Schumacher said he would like to see an 8 percent raise for department heads but wondered how other employees would receive a similar raise. “I’d like to approve this (Comp Board recommendations) but there’s a question what we’re going to do with our other employees and the rest of the county.” When Schumacher asked Supervisor John Pluth his opinion (Pluth meeting remotely), Pluth asked, “Where’s the money going to come from?” Schumacher again noted the savings with no mental-health levy.
Sheriff Martens noted a 12 percent raise would catch him up with Estherville Police Chief Brent Shatto. He noted though that the state mandate was for the Comp Board and not the supervisors.
Hansen recommended 9 percent for the sheriff and 6 percent for other elected officials, except for the supervisors at 2 percent. Various other motions crossed the table until the board unofficially agreed by consensus to approve Hansen’s original recommendation, with Schumacher disapproving.
After the meeting, Sathoff noted a national cost-of-living increase of 5.9 percent.

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