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County board agrees to salary increases
January 09, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

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It took more than a half-hour of discussion, but the Scotts Bluff County Board approved salary increases for elected officials starting in 2015.

Commissioners agreed that current salaries are below average compared with counties of similar size. But they also said the county couldn’t afford a proposal by elected officials to raise salaries four percent per year between 2015 and 2018.

“How can we give officials a four percent raise when last year we didn’t give any employee any raise at all?” asked Board Chairman Mark Masterton. “If we’re going to be fair, we should treat elected officials like we do the employees.”

Human Resources Director Jerry Crable proposed a similar plan to how counties deal with union salary negotiations. Wages from 10 similar sized counties are used to determine the mid-point. Salaries would then be brought up to the mid-point, with a two percent increase over the remaining three years.

A third proposal from Commissioner Sherry Blaha was more involved, but received the board’s approval. It starts with the positions of County Clerk, Register of Deeds, County Assessor, County Treasurer and Clerk of the District Court. In Scotts Bluff County, each of those positions has received the same salary for a number of years. But when compared with other counties, a salary disparity appeared among local elected officials.

Blaha’s proposal would take an average of the array of those county’s five positions to set a base salary for 2015. A two percent annual increase would be allowed for the remaining three years.

“There’s quite a disparity between some of our own departments when compared with other counties,” Blaha said. “I think this is a more fair way to raise salaries.”

Masterton said it’s difficult to determine an average salary by comparing similar sized counties. Each position has different responsibilities, and many are paid extra for assuming other duties. He said Blaha’s proposal takes the controversy out of determining the base salary.

“One of my goals when I ran for office was try to create a more fair situation for all our people,” Blaha said.

Monday was also the county board’s reorganization meeting. Masterton was re-elected to board chair and Commissioner Mike Marker will serve as alternate.
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