Routt County elected officials to go to board about pay disparities
November 14, 2011
Road and Bridge Director: $104,292
Human Resources Director: $93,888
County Attorney: $104,292
Planning Director: $86,532
Internet Services Director: $96,132
Finance Director: $104,292
Purchasing/Building Director: $93,888
Communications Director: $84,072
Building Official: $93,888
Emergency Services Director: $79,164
Airport Manager: $98,844
Public/Environmental Health Director: $98,844
Human Services Director: $87,984
County Commissioners: $58,500
County Clerk: $58,500
Treasurer/Public Trustee: $71,000
Steamboat Springs — A group of elected Routt County officials will go before the Routt County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday to make the case that they, as well as the commissioners, are underpaid when their salaries are compared to county department heads who are appointed, and not elected, to their jobs. However, county Assessor Gary Peterson acknowledged Monday that the group doesn't expect the meeting to result in salary adjustments in the near term.
"We understand that this is a very sensitive issue with the commissioners right now because we're asking them to give themselves a pay raise at the same time county employees are working under pay cuts," Peterson said. "But the disparity between the (salaries) of elected officials and appointed department heads is almost a 40 percent difference. We want to be heard, but we won't really expect them to move on it."
In addition to Peterson, Treasurer Jeanne Whiddon, County Clerk and Recorder Kay Weinland, Sheriff Garrett Wiggins and Coroner Rob Ryg are expected to appear before the commissioners Tuesday.
The salaries of elected officials like the assessor, county clerk, treasurer, coroner and commissioners are governed by state statue. And none of them were awarded the $1,000 bonus that other county employees received last week.
County Attorney John Merrill confirmed Monday that state law groups counties into six classifications, each with its own salary schedule based on a set of criteria that include population, assessed valuation, percent rural population and population growth, among others.
Routt County is grouped in Classification III along with Rio Blanco, Grand, Gunnison, Montrose and Moffat counties.
Routt had the highest property value of the 20 counties in Classification III as of 2010. The department heads point out that their colleagues who are appointed and not elected are paid based in part on a salary survey that includes Classification II counties like Eagle, Summit, Garfield and Pitkin.
In Classification I counties like Boulder, county commissioners, for example, make $87,300. Routt County commissioners make $58,500.
The Legislature is required to appoint a commission at regular intervals to look at the salaries of county officials to ensure they are "equitable," Merrill said. Counties may not take it on themselves to change their salary classification. Instead, the commissioners may make the request to their state legislators that they recommend a change in classification. They aren't often turned down, he said.
The elected officials are expected to use salary surveys of Routt County department heads and the second-ranking employee in their office, and contrast them to the salaries of elected officials and their second-ranking employee to make the point that the disparity in compensation could discourage qualified people from seeking to fill open spots during county elections.
"In our county there have been many elections in which elected officials have run unopposed," the group of Routt County elected officials wrote in a memo to the commissioners. "As a group we have concerns that succession in elected offices will be difficult to fill from within the county due to the fact that many of our highly qualified employees would have to take a pay cut to take on the added responsibilities.”
— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com
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