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. The median household income in Douglas County was $38,868 in 2003, the most recent year available.
Raises also were given to Sheriff Ken McGovern (from $87,464 to $104,104), County Clerk Jamie Shew (from $56,264 to $68,369), Treasurer Paula Gilchrist (from $58,411 to $68,369) and Register of Deeds Kay Pesnell ($63,044 to $71,801).
The raises were recommended by the county administrator's office, which conducted a survey of what other Kansas counties were paying their elected officials. They include the 3.5 percent cost-of-living increase commissioners granted to all county employees for 2007. Commissioners also receive benefits that include medical and retirement.
The pay increases were part of the meeting's consent agenda and were approved without discussion.
Commission Chairman Bob Johnson said he had no qualms about increasing the pay to the other elected officials, saying they are good people doing a good job.
"I don't think anyone wants to take advantage of having people in a position where they are not adequately and properly compensated," he said.
At the same time, Johnson said it was "a little bit difficult" for him to give himself and fellow Commissioners Jere McElhaney and Charles Jones a raise.
"There is no way you can do it so that it doesn't appear to be self-serving," he said.
Jones said approving the increases was the right thing to do.
"It is getting harder and harder to get people to run for office," said Jones, who was recently re-elected without opposition. "The reason for that is very few people are willing to do it."
County commissioners get paid considerably more than their counterparts on the Lawrence City Commission. A Lawrence city commissioner is paid an annual salary of $9,000, with the mayor receiving $10,000. Lawrence school board members do not receive pay for their jobs. State law prevents pay for school board members.
"I've said for some time to my friends on the City Commission that they need fairer compensation," Jones said. "You are just not going to get people to run for office if they can't afford to win."
City and county commissioners are considered to have part-time positions. County commissioner McElhaney, however, said depending on the season, he sometimes works as much as 40 to 45 hours a week on county business and never less than 20 hours a week.
According to the county survey, county commissioners in Leavenworth County, with a population of 73,113, are paid $44,877. In Reno County, population 63,558, commissioners receive $31,868. In Saline County, population 53,919, commissioners are paid $26,561.
Douglas County's population is 111,519.
County Administrator Craig Weinaug said that for whatever reason, county commissioners across the state were generally paid more than city commissioners. He also said that in 1988, county commissioners lowered their salary from $19,188 to $15,000. That salary remained frozen until 2001 when commissioners increased it to $19,177.
That same year, commissioners started taking the same cost-of-living increases that they gave other county employees, Weinaug said. Because of cost of living increases, commissioners' salaries went from $19,749 in 2002 to $21,507 this year.
If the commission's salary had not been lowered in 1988 and instead started taking an average of 3 percent cost of living increases per year, the salary today would be $34,878.
A survey of sheriff's salaries showed that the Shawnee County Sheriff is paid $71,047. It also shows a range for the Saline County sheriff to be from $63,791 to $98,887. Saline County officials told the Journal-World the sheriff makes $78,900. Wyandotte County lists a pay range of $60,778 to $106,470 for its sheriff.
The pay increases for county elected officials became effective Dec. 16 and will show up on the next paychecks, which will be received in January.
More about the Douglas County Commission
- 6News Video: Douglas County leaders give themselves a raise
- County issues ultimatum for subdivision regulations (12-05-06)
- Football field plan sidelined for now (12-05-06)
- County wants to help city with rural growth (12-05-06)
- Jones wins re-election to Douglas County Commission (12-05-06)
- Bridge impasse likely at an end (12-05-06)