A plan to pay the Douglas County coroner on a per-case basis would seem to provide a more equitable method of compensation.
In a budget proposal submitted to Douglas County commissioners Monday, Dr. Carol Moddrell, the current county coroner, compared her current salary of $2,928 a year to the salaries of coroners in other counties. The Shawnee County coroner is paid $48,800, Leavenworth County, $29,000 and Wyandotte County, $15,000.
As both Moddrell and County Commissioner Nancy Hiebert said, the local pay figure "is ridiculous."
Although the coroner and county coroner receive additional compensation for doing autopsies and inquisitions, expecting the coroner to perform her routine duties for less than $3,000 a year is unrealistic. For the past five years, the coroner's office has handled an average of 42.4 cases a year. That's about $70 per case.
Moddrell is proposing that the county eliminate the coroner's salary as a line in the budget and simply pay $150 for each case in which the coroner's office is called. The system would not only increase the coroner's compensation to a more reasonable level, but would base the earnings directly on how much work the coroner and deputy coroner are doing.
The coroner's job is not the most appealing the county has to offer, and it is unreasonable for the county to expect someone to fill that job at a substandard wage. Even though the county is trying hard to hold the line on its budget this year, the coroner's proposal for a pay increase deserves serious consideration.