12/27/2012 9:29:00 AM County wages going up; final 2013 levy going down
by DENISE MARTIN
With a new year looming County Boards annually have the task of setting wages and salaries for a number of public employees, both elected and not elected for the coming year. Last week Chisago county commissioners gave everybody an early Christmas gift-- increasing 2013 wages across the board. For themselves-- there was a 4-1 vote approving a salary hike of one-point-five percent. For the elected department heads, also a hike of 1.5 percent. For non-union employees, and for those who are represented by unions, their wages are going up about two percent over the two and three years of their contracts; but actual contracts for bargaining groups contain various clauses.
Some groups are also seeing an increase in clothing allowance and for special temporary assignments (law enforcement) or in hourly overtime compensation (public works). County Administrator Bruce Messelt explained that the county anticipates budgetary savings as staff “migrate” into cheaper health care plan options. There were three plans. Now there’s just an 80-20 and an HSA, or Health Savings Account offered. County Board Chair George McMahon was the lone no vote on setting the commissioner pay for 2013. Commissioner Mike Robinson made the motion and also left the “per diem” payments at $50. The committee assignments will be dealt with at the Board’s organizational meeting January 8 at 9 a.m.
County commissioners are at $26,871 annually. Per diem payments are collected separately for attending committee meetings or other sanctioned gatherings in addition to the normal Board sessions. The raise takes them to $27,274. In 2010 the commissioners cut their pay by two percent and this hasn’t been adjusted since. Between 2006 and 2010 their wage was frozen, so they’ll basically be getting what the position paid seven years ago. For elected officials, their wages were set at: County Auditor $94,448; Treasurer/Recorder $88,010; Sheriff $106,120; Chief Deputy $86,977 and County Attorney $95,504. Commissioner Ben Montzka asked staff to look into options for increasing the county attorney compensation more than this 1.5 percent hike from 2012 wages. Montzka felt the county attorney wage “doesn’t reflect” the skills and duties provided in the current office, in relation to other salary schedules. County Administrator Bruce Messelt will look into the process allowing for wage adjustments and report back. Generally all elected office-holders’ wages are set the last meeting of one year for the coming year. About that budget...
The Board also adopted the final levy for 2013, the same as presented at the public hearing. (Story in Dec. 13 issue.) The local levy is dropping by about $270,000. The levy vote was 4-1 with Commissioner Robinson opposed. He made a motion to allow for funding for the senior center coordinator position to be reinstated ($30,000 was eliminated.) He got a second from Lora Walker for discussion, but the budget amendment measure failed 3-2. Commissioner Walker did vote with the others for the final levy, saying the decrease is heading “in the right direction” and she would support the funding package--unamended-- as presented. (See update story on senior center.) On 2013 ditch levies: the auditor reported on existing balances available for ditch work and recommended keeping the 2013 levies all at the same as 2012. The one exception is Ditch 10, which has a $27,000 balance and will be dropped from $1,500 to $1,000 to collected. Ditch levy is only charged against specific properties that benefit from a numbered ditch system throughout the county. Your tax statement will have a line item for ditch levy if you are assessed.