Treasurer denied hike in salary

Friday, November 16, 2001

JACKSON, Mo. -- Bill Reynolds says he wants to write himself a bigger check as Cape Girardeau County treasurer, but fellow elected officials won't let him.

The Cape Girardeau County Commission and eight other elected county officials, meeting as the salary commission, refused Thursday to hike Reynolds' salary to bring it in line with many other elected positions.

At 72, Reynolds has served as county treasurer for 21 years. He said the salary commission, of which he is a member, should have equalized the salaries in 1996, when the commission reviewed all officeholders' pay. The commission instead set the salary of treasurer at $37,000, putting it near the bottom in elected officials' pay.

In recent years, county officeholders have received 3.5 percent pay raises annually. Officeholders who started out at higher salaries receive bigger raises, Reynolds said.

"Over a period of time, the gap gets wider and wider," Reynolds said after Thursday's salary commission meeting.

Paid $42,458

Reynolds' salary this year is $42,458, the same as public administrator. Reynolds said he wants to be paid the same or nearly the same salary as the auditor, assessor, collector, recorder of deeds and presiding county commissioner, who all make $51,383.

Gerald Jones, the presiding commissioner, chaired the meeting and ruled Reynolds' request out of order.

Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle said the treasurer's salary couldn't be considered this time around. Since becoming a 1st-class county in January 1997, the salary commission has met every odd-numbered year and under state law can only consider the salaries of offices to be elected in the next election, Swingle said.

State law defines four classes of counties on the basis of assessed valuation and provides different governing powers depending on classification.

The positions of prosecuting attorney, presiding commissioner, collector, county clerk, auditor and recorder of deeds will come up for election in 2002. The prosecutor's salary is no longer under control of the salary commission. Under state law, it is set at the same level as associate circuit judges.

3.5 percent again

The commission voted unanimously to continue the policy of giving 3.5 percent pay raises to officeholders.

Reynolds believes the commission should be able to correct past mistakes even if it means a mid-term raise. "You ought to be able to undo something that was wrong," said Reynolds, who would have accepted a base pay hike for the coming year but would have preferred an increase that was retroactive to 1997.

Reynolds said he doesn't plan to seek re-election to a seventh term when his term ends on Dec. 31, 2004.

He dismisses criticism that the duties of treasurer don't add up to a full-time job.

"I am here every day," said Reynolds, who works in the county's administrative building in Jackson. He has one employee in his office.

"My signature has to be on all checks," he said.

The thousands of checks issued by the county are run through a check-signing machine in Reynolds' office. Reynolds said his office takes care of about 40 different bank accounts.

He admits that some county positions like treasurer and auditor probably could be combined. But he said separating the two positions eliminates any conflict of interest.

"I guess really you could get rid of all county officeholders and go with a county manager," said Reynolds.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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