Raises approved for county elected officials

By Buck Traxler, I-O Editor
   Thursday morning a public hearing was held at the courthouse by the County Compensation Board.
   The purpose of the hearing was to review raises of the elected officials and to discuss the county contribution to the employee health insurance premium and permissive levy as a potential way to raise non-tax revenue.
   The board is made up of John McFarland and Dan Majerus, commissioners Cyndi Johnson, Sandy Broesder and Joe Christiaens, Clerk and Recorder Janice Hoppes, Treasurer Jeanne Moon, Sheriff Tom Kuka, and County Attorney Mary Ann Ries.
   By law, county governments, each year, must appoint a local county compensation board to prepare a pay schedule for the elected county officials for the coming fiscal year.
   Hoppes also had a comparable salary schedule prepared, showing the pay scale comparisons to other counties as well as the City of Conrad and the Clerk of the Conrad School District and other demographics of the counties.
   This worksheet is also required by law. The salary compensation was compared with two counties that paid higher salaries and two that were lower that Pondera County.
   For example, county commissioners earn $40,589. In Teton County their commissioners earn $37,928, in Toole County they are paid $42,765, in Choteau County $39,153 and in Blaine County commissioners earn $41,586.
   The Pondera County Attorney is paid $75,763 (half of this salary is paid by the state). In Teton County, their attorney is paid $82,322, Toole County $84,894, Choteau $65,408 and in Blaine $75,413.
   The Clerk and Recorder, Treasurer and Clerk of Court in Pondera County all receive $38,589. The Clerk and Recorder and Treasurer also receive, by law, an extra $2,000 a year as compensation for other duties.
   In Teton County, the same positions are paid $35,928, in Toole County $40,765, in Choteau County $37,153 and in Blaine County $39,586.
   In Pondera County the sheriff/coroner is paid $41,824, in Teton the sheriff/coroner gets $36,218, in Toole County (sheriff only) $42,765, in Choteau County the sheriff/coroner is paid $40, 383 and in Blaine County the sheriff receives $41,586.
   In discussing salary increase for the coming year, it was noted that a 3.8 percent COLA (Cost of Living Allowance) is authorized by the state.
   Along with that COLA increases plus a .2 percent, 1.2 percent and a 1.7 percent raise(s) were discussed by the board.
Hoppes noted that a permissive levy would need to be passed, but not if the five percent increase was approved.
   McFarland commented, “I’d shoot for the five percent wage increase.”
   The motion was made to increase salaries for elected officials by five percent. After a second, it passed on a unanimous vote of the board, 9-0. Ries had to leave the public hearing before the actual vote was taken. Commissioner Christiaens vote was recorded by phone.
   There were no members of the public in attendance at the hearing.
   In other action by the county commissioners, a task order was approved for a maternal and child health grant.
   The county health department will receive $7,772 for allowable services. Passed on a vote of 3-0.
   A road opening agreement requested by 3 River Communications, to engage in excavation on and under the Meridian and Midway roads for the purpose of installing fiber optic cable. This action was passed on a vote of 3-0.
   A request for family medical leave, beginning on July 1, was also approved on a 3-0 vote.
   The next regular business meeting of the commissioners will be on June 4, 10 a.m. in the commissioner’s officer of the Pondera County Courthouse.