No Base Pay Increases for County Employees

By Beacon Staff

The Flathead County commissioners voted to keep the county’s elected officials’ base salaries frozen for another year, following the recommendation of the County Compensation Board of not adding a cost-of-living adjustment for any county employee.

There was, however, one, tiny exception.

In a 3-0 vote, the commission voted to give Sheriff and Coroner Chuck Curry a one-penny raise. This cent keeps the mechanism for his deputies’ longevity payments going, according to Flathead County Administrator Mike Pence.

State law stipulates that the deputies’ longevity would be frozen if the sheriff’s base salary also remained frozen, Pence said. Deputies receive a longevity increase of 1 percent of their salary each year of service.

Some elected officials also receive annual adjustments to their pay provided by state law, but those adjustments are part of the base salary already, according to the county Human Resource Officer Raeann Campbell.

According to state law, county commissioners, the sheriff, the treasurer and assessor and the clerk and recorder/surveyor receive adjustments of $2,000; the superintendent of schools gets $400.

Justices of the peace and the sheriff also receive longevity payments. The justices receive a 1 percent increase per year based on their salaries, capped at 10 percent, and the sheriff gets a 1 percent increase based on his or her salary.

The commission noted that no county employee would receive a COLA increase for the next fiscal year. Commissioner Dale Lauman said the base pay freeze had nothing to do with the employees’ performances and instead is a budgeting issue.

“It’s somewhat frustrating that you can’t reward people,” Lauman said.

The elected officials’ salaries for fiscal year 2011-2012 are as follows: clerk of district court, $60,235; sheriff/coroner, $70,536.22; county treasurer/assessor, $62,235; justice of the peace Department 1, $71,417.08; justice of the peace Department 2, $74,260.70; clerk/recorder/surveyor, $62,235; county commissioners, $62,235; superintendent of schools, $60,635; county attorney, $95,879.