Chat about the Douglas County Commission's new raise with Commissioner Bob Johnson
December 20, 2006
This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.
Douglas County commissioners on Monday gave themselves and other elected officials pay raises amounting to several thousand dollars per individual. They say the move is to bring salaries in line with other Kansas counties of comparable size. Commissioners will see their annual pay increase by more than 50 percent - from $21,507 to $32,552. Commissioner Bob Johnson will take your questions about this and other county issues.
Hi. This is Cody Howard. I will be moderating today's chat with Douglas County Commission Chairman Bob Johnson. We will be starting in moments.
Our thanks to Bob Johson for joining us today. Let's begin.
We have several questions about the raises for elected Douglas County officials approved on Monday.
I don't have an opinion about the need for a raise for county commissioners, but as a general rule, I believe than no civil servant should be eligible for a raise he or she voted on, until after the next election. What are your thoughts on that idea?
I understand your point, but don't believe this is how it generally works. In some ways it would have been easier for me not to make the increase effective immediately, but if my goal was to be entirely self serving, then I would have been trying to get this done as long as six years ago! It seemed to us that the time was right in that all three of us agreed now is right and we wanted to be absolutely straight up and not duck any of the questions or criticism that would go along with our decision.
Please recap how the commission came to the decision of the timing and percentage of increases.
This all began several months ago when we asked Craig to study the marketplac with respect to the salaries of our elected officials in Douglas County. We wanted to be sure that they were being fairly and adequately compensated. Also, we are blessed with very good officials who are doing a great job. Then it became a question of what is fair and proper for the County Commissioners. We looked at what is happening in our fellow Counties and what has been the history of Douglas County Commissioner salaries.
We landed upon the average of the five largest counties not including Johnson, Sedgwick and Douglas. If I remember, that number is approx. 35,000. When you look at the Douglas County Commissioner salary in 1988 and move it forward the 2006 dollars, that number is about 34,000. We simply decided that we wanted to be below the average and agreed upon the number of 32,000. So, in 2007, our salaries will be below the average for 2006.
Next, we felt it important to institutionalize the process and assigned the Commissioner salary to a pay code, same as our elected officials, except the Sheriff, for obvious reasons. So, going forward, the pay will be based upon the hourly starting wage for this pay grade and will not increase except as the minimun number changes. Also, this is based in part upon the belief that Commissioners should be considered a half time job, not full time!
Why were only 5 counties surveyed out of 105 Kansas counties? Will the details of this survey be made public? Does the County intend to run a salary survey for non-elected staff?
Certainly, any information we have will be made public. Just call the office 832-5328.
County Administrator,Craig Weinaug was asked to not consider Johnson and Sedgwick because of their size, and I think he did not consider Wyandotte because it is a unified gov't.
Why wasn't a raise this large phased in over time? Seems to me, that would have been a better way to maintain some semblance of a budget.
If it was to be phased it should start at the beginning of a term. Since Jere McElhaney and I are in the middle of our second term, there would be a disparity between the salary of two of us and Charles Jones did not think this a good idea. We felt any change in Commissioner salary should be a unanimous decision.
How many hours a week does a commissioner work? I realize that most of these individuals have other full time careers, so what is really expected out of them as far as hours? Thank you.
Good question. I don't think anyone prescribes the exact number that a Commissioner should work. We just need to spend the time needed to be informed and make decisions that are in the best interest of the County. What ever it takes and, of course, it varies from week to week and issue to issue. On average, I spend between 20 and 30 hours per week. The two meeting per week are just the tip of the iceberg. It is difficult for a person with a full time job to be able to make this time committment.
How can you possibly justify a $16,000 per year raise for the Sheriff? Though a very nice man, he has no college degree and has 2 Undersheriffs unlike any other county in the state of Kansas. There is no way he does more on a day to day basis than the Sheriff of Shawnee County who gets paid less and has a higher population to serve.
We have time today for a couple more questions.
I don't think the Sheriff will be overpaid going forward. When the sheriff was elected two years ago, he started at the bottom of the pay grade and after some discussions, the Commission agreed to re-evaluate his pay after two years on the job. We are keeping our word and the past two years have demonstrated that the Sheriff and his people are doing a terrific job.
Why not make the raise effective 2008? After all the pay level has not forced any of you to consider resignation and you knew the pay level when you threw your hat in the ring.
Put it on the April 2007 Ballot? See if your employers are happy with your perfromance.
One of the beauties of the election process is if the public is not satisfied with the way the job is being done, the officeholder will be returned to the public.
Mr. Johnson, since the job of commissioner is a part time job and one that you voluntary accepted and therefore do not rely on as primary income, would you and your fellow commissioners consider donating your windfall salary raise to local charities in the spirit of giving back to the community that you serve in this time of giving and need?
First, I don't think anyone should assume that we are not already giving back to our Community in lot's of ways, including money. While it may be fair to say that we are able to live without a pay increase, it begs the question of what should the compensation be. Also, perhaps this will be a step in the right direction to encourage some other very able person to seek office, who might not otherwise be able to afford the risk of being elected.
That's all the time we have today. Our thanks to Douglas County Commission Chairman Bob Johnson for joining us today.