Johnson County commissioners to cut own salaries for elected officials

BUFFALO — Most of Johnson County's elected officials will receive a pay raise, after the county commissioners approved a new slate of salaries at their April 19 meeting.

Commissioners will fund the raises by taking a 25-percent pay cut to their own salaries.

Starting Jan. 1, the county clerk, assessor, treasurer and clerk of district court will all earn $84,000 per year, an increase from their current salaries of $82,000.

The largest raise will be for the county attorney, who will now earn $105,000, up from the current salary of $99,000. Half of the salary for the county attorney is paid for by the state. 

The county sheriff will also see a raise, earning $86,000 starting in January, an increase from the current salary of $82,000.

Only one position — the county coroner — will continue to be paid the same salary of $30,000 for the part-time position.

In part to help pay for the increase for the other elected officials, the commissioners elected to cut their own pay from $40,000 to $30,000. Combined, the salary changes will save the county $10,866.

Before the commissioners discussed salaries at the April 19 meeting, elected officials indicated their salary requests.

Sheriff Rod Odenbach, Clerk Vicki Edelman, Treasurer Carla Bishop, Assessor Deb Robinson and Clerk of District Court Paige Rhoads asked for their salaries to remain at $82,000; County and Prosecuting Attorney Tucker Ruby asked for $100,000, a $1,000 raise; Coroner Dave Harness asked for $42,000, a $12,000 raise.

Ruby did, however, remind the commissioners that the salaries they were deciding on weren't necessarily for the people currently in the elected offices.

"You're setting the salary for the next crop of elected officials; that may include us, that may not include us," Ruby said. "And so part of the idea is you want to, with these positions, they want to be attractive positions that individuals may have interest in them and so that they will be willing to step in and serve." 

During discussion, the salary for the county attorney was the biggest point of contention for commissioners Bob Perry and Linda Greenough.

Perry said he felt that in order to attract quality candidates, the salary needed to be increased significantly to $110,000.

"In order to have a county attorney who's worth having, it's going to take more than $99,000," Perry said. "You can make considerably more than that in private practice." 

Greenough originally proposed a slight increase to $100,000 for the position, with the two commissioners eventually splitting the difference and settling on $105,000.

At several points, Greenough expressed concern over the county's ability to afford the elected officials' raises while also planning to give county employees a raise sometime in the near future.

She proposed several versions of the raises for elected officials that included two-year delayed raises or yearly raises of $1,000, though neither of those options was supported by the other commissioners.

Perry, however, seemed much more optimistic about the county's future valuations and income. For these reasons, he said, he felt more comfortable with giving the elected officials raises.

The new salaries, which were unanimously approved, will be in effect through 2026 when the commissioners are required again by state statute to approve them.