DARLINGTON – At their meeting on March 17, the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors approved a 4% raise over three years for the county clerk, treasurer, and register of deeds. Register of Deeds Joe Boll spoke to the board about the increase.
Boll stated in looking at the surrounding counties and what they pay those positions (which are elected positions), Lafayette County is at the bottom. He added that the increase would still have Lafayette County at the bottom but it would make the county competitive with the surrounding counties.
“Our departments are pretty bare bones in the county. We have to be jack-of-all-trades in our departments. But Lafayette County gets a good value with their elected officials,” Boll iterated.
Chairman Jack Sauer’s concern with the increase was how the county could justify the raise. When looking at Grant and Iowa Counties, Sauer questioned how those counties were able to pay their elected officials $5,000 plus a percentage and still keep other employers in the county content with their pay.
“How are we going to treat other employers? We have a lot of people that have had increases making their pay to what it should be. I wonder when it comes to budget time and we will talk about where we are getting the 4%. How are we going to look the rest of our employers in the face and say ‘sorry’? I like to reward people who do a good job and our people are doing a good job. I think this is too much money,” Sauer said.
Boll again reiterated that the increase was about the position and not the person.
“When somebody says, ‘how can you pay somebody that’, your answer is ‘run for it’. That is why salaries have to be set before April 15 because you can’t raise or lower the salaries because of the person running,” Boll said.
Gerald Heimann was also concerned with other employees in the county wanting the 4% increase.
“What concerns me is if we approve this and in next years budget we are struggling to get everyone paid. Will it be like 2009 again when we had to lay people off because we couldn’t afford it? How do you balance a budget to make it all work and keep everyone happy?” Heimann asked.
Boll commented that it is an ongoing problem. “The problem you are solving tonight is making Lafayette County comparable to other counties. We are way behind.”
“Can we justify giving everyone a 4% increase?” Sauer asked. “Can we justify doing a wage study and bringing everyone up to the wage that everyone else is? The answer is absolutely not. How do we decide who we bring up and who we don’t?”
Supervisor Scott Pedley felt this wouldn’t set a precedent. “We have the right to say no to those who want a raise.”
Pedley saw the increase as a $6,800 fiscal impact in the 2021 budget. He then brought up the fact that the Child Support position makes $3,900 more than the elected positions being discussed.
“I believe that 4% is a lot but also look at it as fairness. The onus is on us to budget smarter and better. I looked into each department to look for any unnecessary spending. In regard to the Child Support position, it earns more than any of these offices. But I think they (the elected positions) are a bargain because we are not vesting sick day pay and other things into them. I think it is a matter of fairness.”
Pedley stated the Child Support position is an important job but so are the treasurer, county clerk and register of deeds.
“They have responsibilities with multitasking, but $3,900? That’s the sense of fairness that there needs to be. There needs to be an adjustment,” Pedley concluded.
Sauer said, “Nothing is fair in our system here. If we are going to be fair to these people, we will have employees from everywhere else asking for it. How can we say we won’t be fair with them when we don’t have any money left?”
Heimann made the motion with Pedley seconding. The motion passed 13-1 with Sauer voting against.