Red Willow County commissioners gave elected officials a raise and determined a yearly increase beginning in 2011, adopting a resolution setting salaries for the next four-year term at their weekly meeting Monday morning.
Commission Chairman Earl McNutt said salaries for elected officials had to be set by Jan. 15.
Salaries for the county clerk, county assessor, clerk of the district court and county treasurer will increase from $39,338 in 2010 to $40,500 in January 2011. History shows that each was paid $38,192 in 2009, $37,080 in 2008 and $36,000 in 2007.
The sheriff's salary will increase from $42,616 in 2010 to $43,600 in 2011. That position has been paid: $41,375 in 2009, $40,170 in 2008 and $39,000 in 2007.
The salary for the part-time county attorney will increase from $42,500 in 2010 to $43,500 in 2011. That position has been paid $42,500 annually since 2007.
Each of these positions -- clerk, assessor, clerk of the district court, treasurer, sheriff and attorney -- will see an automatic 2 1/2 percent salary increase annually through the next four-year term, from 2011-2014.
County commissioners, whose positions are also part-time, have been paid $15,500 annually since 2007. That will increase to $17,500 in 2011. The commission chairman earns an additional $50 a month, meaning that position's salary will increase to $18,100.
The part-time county surveyor has been paid $4,800 annually since 2007, and that will increase to $5,500 in 2011.
The salaries for the county commissioners and the county surveyor are frozen, and will not automatically increase each year. Commission chairman Earl McNutt said, "Over the years, whether it's right or wrong, the commissioners' and the surveyor's salaries have always been locked in for four years."
Commissioner Leigh Hoyt said that by 2015, the $50,000 overall increase in the county's budget created by the salary increases for elected officials will mean one additional penny in the county's tax levy.
McNutt said that a study by the Nebraska Association of County Officials (NACO) recommends that elected officials in counties with populations and valuations similar to Red Willow County's be paid $43,800 starting in 2011, that the sheriff be paid 115-120 percent of that salary, a full-time county attorney be paid 150 percent of that salary, and the county board be paid 50 percent of that salary. "We've never been at that level," McNutt said of the commissioners' salary.
McNutt said he hopes that -- although Red Willow's elected officials will not be receiving a salary at the recommended level -- elected officials fully appreciate the group family plan medical insurance paid at 100 percent by the county and the county retirement plan. "We are trying to provide a good benefit package," he said.
Fellow commissioner Leigh Hoyt credits the county's insurance benefit for the low occurrence of turn-over in employee ranks on the county's payroll.
McNutt said commissioners tried to be conservative with salary increases for elected officials. "It's tough trying to come up with salary figures. Everyone always wants more," McNutt said. "But the money has to come from the taxpayers, so we have to try and hold the line."
County surveyor Gary Dicenta updated commissioners on environmental documentation needed on the county's three federal aid highway projects -- Indianola North, McCook North and McCook West. The county is responsible for 20 percent of construction costs on projects accepted for federal aid.
Dicenta said they're still hoping that either McCook North or McCook West will be moved from Tier 2 to Tier 1 of projects to be funded with ARRA federal stimulus money.
McNutt said it's frustrating that the federal stimulus funding program has put regular federal aid projects on hold.
Commissioners agreed to let Dicenta and Miller and Associates update the county's bridge inspection files to meet "National Bridge Inspection System" (NBIS) standards. Dicenta said it will cost about $20 per file to transfer existing files to files required by NBIS. The county has 48 bridges, so the total cost for the file project will be $960. The files will then have to be moved to the courthouse because NBIS requires that records be in the owners' hands. "The feds will inspect the files," Dicenta said.
McNutt said, "I can't help but think that regulations keep building and building, and we'll be lost behind piles of paper." He added, however, that he is glad that former commissioner Eldon Moore replaced many bridges with culverts, eliminating about 100 bridges. Dicenta said that when he started with the county in 1978, there were 150 bridges.
Donald Wilson of McCook, who is preparing the 2009 audit for commissioners, said that commissioners need to officially authorize the county attorney to foreclose on delinquent taxes. Wilson said that when the county tax sale certificate expires after three years, the county attorney has six months to foreclose upon taxes.
McNutt said the county needs to proceed with these foreclosures. "The bottom line is, we may need to budget for these, and get them done."