County salary commission approves raises for 2013

Friday, November 4, 2011

Cape Girardeau County officials elected in 2012 can expect to see a salary raise of up to 3.5 percent, following a meeting of the county salary commission. Thursday.

The commission meets in odd-numbered years to set the salaries of officials who will be elected in November of the next year. It is composed of voting members Sheriff John Jordan, Coroner John Clifton, Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle, Auditor Pete Frazier, County Clerk Kara Clark Summers, Treasurer Rodger Hudson, Commissioner Paul Koeper, Commissioner Jay Purcell, Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy, Assessor Jerry Reynolds, Public Administrator Phyllis Schwab, Recorder of Deeds Scott R. Clark and nonvoting members Circuit Clerk Patti Wibbenmeyer. Collector Diane Diebold is a voting member but was not present.

Increases must be consistent across offices and matched by increases in county employee salaries.

Final raise amounts for all employees and elected officials will be determined by the county commissioners when they set the budget later this year. While salaries of elected officials are capped at 3.5 percent, county commissioners could decide to raise the salaries of county employees by a greater amount.

Not all elected officials' salaries are controlled by the commission. The salary of the circuit clerk is determined and financed through the state. The prosecuting attorney and sheriff's salaries are set under different statutes, though the sheriff's is subject to approved raises, while the prosecuting attorney's is not.

According to Purcell, there has been an ongoing argument about whether the decision of the salary commission sets a binding rate or if the county commissioners can make a decision to set the increases at a different rate when they determine the budget. It is his opinion that the salary commission only makes a recommendation on maximum increases, a source of heated debate with fellow commissioners.

Summers reviewed the county's economic condition, reporting the county has about $8 million in general revenue at the end of October, plus $5 million in emergency funds. She said that expenditures fell under budget for the first three quarters of 2011, sales tax revenue was up and the county "seems to be in sound financial standing at this time."

Action was led by Swingle's motion to grant raises of up to 3.5 percent. In the discussion that followed, Swingle said the raises were not for the current individuals in elected positions but for whomever wins the next election.

Commission members said the raises were based on the financial status of the county and the availability of sales tax revenue, not the general state of the economy.

Jordan said the current rate of inflation was 3.8 percent, which is more than the amount of the raise. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the inflation rate for September was 3.9 percent. In January, the rate was 1.6 percent and it has risen steadily each month this year.

In the end, all members voted for the raise but Purcell.

In 2010, three of seven incumbents won their offices, in 2008 six of seven were re-elected and in 2006 and 2004 four of seven kept their seats. Offices up for election next fall that will be affected by the increase are the assessor, sheriff, treasurer, public administrator and associate commissioners.

salderman@semissourian.com

388-3648

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1 Barton Square, Jackson, MO

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