Claremore Daily Progress

October 27, 2013

More pay increases on county agenda

Elected officials’ raises in question

Salesha Wilken
Staff Writer

CLAREMORE —

Rogers County Commissioners will discuss more employee pay increases Monday, despite a recent across-the-board measure.
In the last month, several new actions have been taken by the board, including a $200 raise for most county employees and last week’s decision to increase the pay of elected officials.
The measure comes in the face of legal advisement against the action.
Assistant District Attorney David Iski advised the board they were prohibited from taking the action, however commissioners Mike Helm and Kirt Thacker voted to increase the pay of all elected officials, including themselves.
Helm’s justification for the action was the passage of HB 2573 in 2010.
Helm said state law allows the salaries to be adjusted on the pay scale when property evaluations increase.
The commissioners’ pay rate was $60,000 annually prior to the vote.
The average base salary for elected officials in the state is $92,000 a year, according to Helm.
Helm argued the state legislature changed the law to say counties “shall” pay elected officials a specific rate.
However, title 19 section 180.63 of the law further states certain officers are prohibited from receiving increases or decreases in salaries.
“County officers shall not receive any salary increase or decrease during their term in office unless by operation of law enacted prior to their election or appointment,” according to the law.
This means the pay increases would not apply to any elected official currently in office until after their next election.
One issue for the commissioners is the recent pay increase of department heads now allows them to make more monthly than elected officials.
Those raises were also supported by Thacker and Helm and funded through the use of excess sales and use tax collected through the $25 million courthouse bond project.
Commissioner Dan DeLozier has spoke out publicly against the pay increases and already opted out of the raise.
DeLozier filed a letter this week with County Clerk Robin Anderson, stating he would not accept a pay increase, which he questioned in two commissioners’ meetings.
Tomorrow, Assessor Scott Marsh will bring another action before the board regarding additional pay increases for his employees, exceeding the recent “cost of living” increase.
The new agenda item will open discussion about the recent pay increases, including last week’s 2 to 1 vote to increase elected officials’ salaries.
As it stand, all county elected officials will receive a $200 a month raise, including Helm and Thacker.
County non-elected officials will receive raises, not including jail employees and Election Board Secretary Julie Dermody.
The pay increases will be retroactive to July 1, according to county officials.