Editor’s Note: At their Dec. 20 regular meeting the Tama County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the salary recommendations described below in the following story.
In the coming weeks Tama County Supervisors will be considering a recommendation that would raise salaries of the county’s elected officials by the largest amount in 20 years.
Dave Forbes and Nick Podhajsky, members of the Tama County Compensation Board, presented their annual recommendation to the Board of Supervisors on Dec. 13.
The recommendation seeks a six percent salary increase for five of the six elected county offices including the auditor, treasurer, recorder, attorney and supervisors.
The recommendation also asks the county for a 15 percent salary increase for the county sheriff.
Yearly increases for the same offices in Tama County have hovered between 2 and 3.5 percent for the past four years.
In the 2007-08 budget year the commission recommended six percent salary increases but the Board of Supervisors ultimately lowered the amount to four percent before approving the measure.
Before that the commission recommended nine percent increases for the 2000-01 budget year with the exception of the supervisors who were recommended at four percent.
The driver of this year’s proposal would appear to be a historic spike in cost-of-living numbers reported recently by the U.S. Department of Labor.
According to a Dec. 10 statement from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the All Items Consumer Price Index experienced a 6.8 percent increase from November 2020 to November 2021.
The price index measures the change in prices paid by consumers for goods and services.
This is the largest 12-month increase the national index has seen since the early 1980s.
The commission also considered the position Tama County is in with its compensation compared to the other 99 counties in the state.
Tama County ranks 44th in population but ranks closer to 60th or 70th in salaries for their various elected officials.
An additional component on top of the cost-of-living increases being calculated into the sheriff’s salary recommendation was a piece of state legislation passed this year that has specific language dealing with sheriff salaries.
Senate File 342, more commonly referred to as Iowa’s “Back the Blue Bill”, includes a provision that appears to compel county compensation boards to set sheriff salaries at rates comparable to other law enforcement administrators at the state and local level.
According to Forbes, if the county were to adjust Sheriff Dennis Kucera’s salary to comparable rates of professional law enforcement administrators and command officers of the state patrol, the division of criminal investigation of the department of public safety, and city police agencies of municipalities with similar populations to Tama County, the percentage increase required would be closer to a 40 percent pay raise.
The two compensation commission members present at the meeting indicated there were differing opinions of how much of an increase to recommend.
The concern of some of the commission members was that failure to be proactive in raising the sheriff’s salary may result in an even larger percentage increase in future years if new legislation is strictly enforced and other agencies spiral up the going rate with their own salary increases. The supervisors took no action on the recommendation Monday and offered little in terms of comment outside of a reminder to the commission members of the options they have in front of them with the compensation process.
The supervisors may choose to approve the recommendation, decline the recommendation or approve an amended compensation recommendation with salary numbers lower than the recommended amounts. They are not allowed to vote to raise the numbers approved by the compensation board.
Although the compensation board recommendation process is complex, the overall financial impact toward the county’s bottom line is smaller in relative terms.
The county employs a total of 140 employees, some of which are covered under union agreements.
There are 15 elected officials and the deputy assistants that would be directly impacted by the compensation board recommendation.
Below is a table reflecting the current salaries of the six elected offices and where those salaries rank among Iowa’s 99 counties.
The list below shows the most recent salaries for Tama County’s six elected offices and how they rank among the 99 counties in Iowa.
Attorney – $94,352 – 65th
Auditor – $62,266 – 70th
Recorder – $62,096 – 67th
Treasurer – $62,182 – 69th
Sheriff – $79,546 – 78th
Supervisors – $32,682 – 60th