Commissioner pushes for data-based approach to Cape Girardeau County employee raises

Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Cape Girardeau County District 2 Commissioner Jay Purcell speaks at a meeting of county officials in this Southeast Missourian file photo. On Monday Purcell advocated for a data-based approach to determining the amount of salary raises for county employees. (Fred Lynch)

Editor's note: The story has been changed to reflect that the Cape Girardeau County Area Transit Authority submitted its budget in late September.

Every year since at least 1987 Cape Girardeau County employees have received a raise in pay.

But Cape Girardeau County District 2 Commissioner Jay Purcell said Monday that any increase in salaries for county employees in 2010 should be based on quantitative data, such as cost of living index or inflation.

"We have to point to something that is data-based," Purcell said during the commission's meeting. "... We should look at what's going on in the economy. No one questions that everyone would like a raise or that we don't value our employees.

"I don't think it's enough to say if we can afford it we'll pay it. We should use some criteria."

Purcell has long advocated against salary increases for county officials. But several county officials in Monday's meeting argued that if its employees aren't given a raise, the county could risk losing some of those workers to higher-paying jobs. Raises for county officials were set earlier this year by a committee.

County Collector Diane Diebold said she was part of a study group that surveyed salaries of first-class counties including Cape Girardeau County. First-class counties have an assessed value of at least $600 million. Diebold said Cape Girardeau County ranked in the middle of those counties in terms of salary paid to its employees.

"If this county could not supply the revenue to support raises, we would have to cut to come in under budget," Diebold said. "But if we're under budget, why would it not be appropriate not to give the raises?"

Purcell asked elected officials in the room if they would forgo their 3.5 percent increases. Diebold and County Clerk Kara Clark Summers said they would have no problem having their salary remain the same.

"I'm not the decision-maker on that," County Treasurer Roger Hudson told the commissioners. "You are."

County Assessor Jerry Reynolds, Recorder Janet Robert and District 1 Commissioner Paul Koeper said they are against decreases in their pay. Purcell did not ask Presiding Commissioner Jones or County Auditor David Ludwig for how they would vote.

Reynolds said that if the county is financially sound he doesn't see a reason not to give raises. Ludwig said the county is on sound financial footing.

"What happens to me in the next four years affects my retirement," Reynolds said. "I will not reduce my retirement for the rest of my life. I'll be very honest about it."

Koeper said departments such as the sheriff and highway are on call 24 hours a day. He said their salaries should be increased about 3 percent.

"Our people do an excellent job and should be rewarded for that," Koeper said.

In addition to the discussion on salary increases the commission heard a presentation from Tom Mogelnicki, executive director of the Cape Girardeau County Area Transit Authority. Mogelnicki told commissioners that the authority's fleet of vehicles had burned more fuel and driven more miles each year in a three-year period. Mogelnicki said that through October, its vehicles had burned 86,940 gallons of fuel, an increase from 65,923 the entire year of 2007, and had driven 910,462 miles through October, compared to 623,230 in 2007.

The commission will vote on the transit authority's budget request during the budget hearings.

bblackwell@semissourian.com

388-3628

Pertinent addresses:

1 Barton Square, Jackson, MO

937 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, MO

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