Routt County elected officials to go to board about pay disparities | SteamboatToday.com

Routt County elected officials to go to board about pay disparities

— 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.

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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

Salary comparison

County management

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

Elected officials

County Commissioners: $58,500

County Clerk: $58,500

Treasurer/Public Trustee: $71,000

Assessor: $58,500

Sheriff: $76,000

Coroner: $33,100

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