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Douglas County Commissioners split over elected officials' salaries

Per diems and mileage rates were set, the levy was approved, a report was heard from the state auditor's office and raises for some department heads were given while there was a debate over pay bumps for elected officials.

These were just a few of the items that took place at Tuesday's regular Douglas County Board meeting.

Douglas County commissioners were kept busy during the nearly three-hour-long meeting.

The commissioners, minus Commissioner Paul Anderson, who was absent from the meeting, adopted the proposed levy, which increased 6.3 percent. The 2010 budget was also adopted and is roughly $23.3 million.

Commissioners set per diems for county employees at $60, which was not an increase over last year. "We wanted to keep it the same," noted one of the commissioners.

The mileage reimbursement rate was approved at 50 cents per mile, which is the same as what the state sets. This also did not increase.

Three of the four commissioners approved a 3 percent increase in salaries for non-represented employees and appointed department heads. Commissioner Norm Salto voted against the 3 percent raise.

When it came time to adopt a resolution setting elected officials' salaries for 2010, a lengthy discussion was had among the commissioners. Elected officials include the sheriff, auditor-treasurer, recorder, county attorney and the commissioners.

Dan Olson made a motion to give elected officials - other than the county board members - a 3 percent raise.

"It was budgeted for, otherwise I wouldn't have made the motion," said Olson.

Board chair Bev Bales, after several minutes of silence, seconded Olson's motion, asking for discussion on the topic.

Commissioner Jerry Johnson said elected officials are different than appointed and that when looking at the whole county budget, giving elected officials a raise "probably wouldn't break the bank, but I think elected officials should hold the line."

Salto agreed, saying that when talking with residents he hears time and time again from people, "I am sick and tired of paying taxes. We can't handle any more."

He added that he doesn't want a raise and that he can live off of what he gets.

"We need to hold the line. This is not a political issue," said Salto.

Commissioner Bales said, "Nobody likes to watch their dollar more than me, but I think these people are deserving."

Bales and Olson voted to give elected officials a 3 percent raise, while Johnson and Salto voted against it.

No action was taken at this time because it was a split vote.

After the vote was taken, Douglas County Auditor/Treasurer Tom Reddick told commissioners, "From my perspective, the money is in the budget. I am OK with it. The funds are there."

It was decided that the commissioners would revisit the issue at their January 5 reorganizational meeting when all five commissioners will be present.

The commissioners approved keeping their salaries the same - $26,000 per year.

Report from the state auditor

Bob Johnson from the Office of the State Auditor presented information to the commissioners on the state's audit of the county.

He said Douglas County is in a lot better shape than a lot of other counties around the state and added that the report was "pretty impressive."

Bob Johnson called the report "clean" and applauded those who work in the county's auditor/treasure office for the nice work they do.

"There were no difficulties in doing this audit and there were no disagreements with the management," Bob Johnson told commissioners, adding that he can't remember a time when he had a disagreement with management in Douglas County.

After Johnson was done, Olson complimented the auditor/treasurer's office, saying, "Kudos to the staff."