September 12, 2007 in Idaho

Commissioners vote to raise salaries

By The Spokesman-Review

Pay increases

“Prosecutor Bill Douglas is the highest paid elected official in the county. With a $2,790 increase, he will now make $95,790 a year.

“Sheriff Rocky Watson will make $82,400 after a $2,400 raise.

“Commissioners’ salaries will increase by $2,010 to $67,000.

“The assessor, clerk and treasurer each will get a $1,950 raise for salaries of $66,950.

“The coroner will earn $59,740 after a $1,740 increase.

Kootenai County commissioners voted Tuesday to give themselves and six other elected officials, including the sheriff and prosecutor, a 3 percent raise.

Commissioner Rich Piazza was the only commissioner to vote against the salary bumps, which for the three commissioners means an additional $2,010 in their $67,000 annual pay. Piazza said he is upholding a campaign promise not to give elected officials raises until they are justified.

Commission Chairman Rick Currie voted for the increase, saying annual bumps are needed so salaries remain in line with those of other Northwest governments and similarly sized businesses. Commissioner Todd Tondee also voted for the raises.

“We hope this would not be a political issue,” Currie said.

All other county employees may also get a 3 percent salary increase, based on merit.

County Finance Director David McDowell said there’s about $900,000 included in the new $70 million budget, which takes effect Oct. 1, to cover the salary increases.

Piazza maintains that the previous County Commission county commissioners, including Currie, erred and bred mistrust with residents in 2005 when it voted to give itself a $13,486 annual raise, bringing the salary to $67,000. Piazza said the commissioners and other elected officials needed a salary boost for the full-time jobs but that it should have occurred in increments, not a lump sum in the year before a county election.

“I’m not ready quite yet” to vote for an increase, Piazza said, adding that the current salary is appropriate.

The pay increase was recommended by a nine-member citizen committee and was similar to a suggestion made by an independent consultant hired by the county to review the salaries of all 680 county employees, including elected officials.

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