Letter to the Editor

City manager responds to county salary story

Friday, December 1, 2017

Dear Editor,

I read an article entitled “County Officials Get 10 Percent Raise,” and feel compelled to respond to comments attributed to our Red Willow County officials.

According to the article, Sheriff Alan Kotschwar is scheduled to receive a 10 percent raise in 2019, with a salary of $59,300.

At the end of the article, Sheriff Kotschwar and the commissioners stated there’s “no way to get close” to the $82,000 that McCook Police Chief Ike Brown is paid.

The article fails to address important factors that play into the salary differences. First, the City of McCook has established a minimum and maximum salary for each employee classification. Range placement is based on experience and merit.

Typically, a new hire starts at the bottom of the scale. Each subsequent year, the employee advances up the scale, assuming certain goals are met. For the chief of police classification, the current salary range is $63,010 - $85,329.

If McCook were to hire a new police chief, and assuming the individual starts at the bottom of the scale, that individual would be paid $63,010. Advancement up the scale isn’t guaranteed, as annual performance evaluations are required.

During his 20 year career as police chief, Chief Brown has met the expectations of his position, causing upward movement.

Sheriff Kotschwar’s situation is different, as he has been employed as sheriff for 3 years. Hypothetically, if Mr. Kotschwar was hired as police chief in 2014 as opposed to sheriff, and assuming he received good marks on his evaluations, he would currently earn $67,508.46 (this salary is based on the range established for fiscal year 2014/2015).

He would not earn $82,000, as the article implies. The second factor not mentioned in the article is that Sheriff Kotschwar receives additional compensation as the County’s emergency manager.

Sheriff Kotschwar receives $7,200 per year as manager, which would bring his compensation for 2019 to $66,500 (assuming no change in the manager’s pay).

Finally, it is misguided to compare the McCook Chief of Police to Red Willow County Sheriff. Each position entails different responsibilities. A more accurate analysis would be to compare Sheriff Kotschwar’s salary to similarly situated county sheriff’s in Nebraska.

It’s a mistake to try to conduct a cross-comparison of non-related agencies. An example of the problem associated with utilizing the Red Willow County officials’ apples to oranges comparison can be seen if one compares the proposed 2019 salaries of the Red Willow County commissioners and McCook council members. According to the article, it appears that beginning in 2019, the Red Willow County commissioners will earn $23,700 - $24,400 annually, with health insurance included.

In contrast, McCook council members are slated to earn $1,800 in 2019, with no additional benefits. The variation between the two is substantial. However, if a study is done comparing Red Willow County commissioners compensation to similarly situated county commissioners in Nebraska, the numbers are probably justifiable. Moving forward, it is probably a good idea if our local governmental entities refrain from unnecessary wage comparisons.

We are different, with varying responsibilities and structures, and that’s okay. A governmental entity shouldn’t deflect attention toward other political bodies in order to explain their own actions. It only serves as a red herring.

Nate Schneider

McCook City Manager

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