Proposal includes county raises

By: 
Alexis Barker

Alexis Barker

NLJ News Editor

 

The Board of Weston County Commissioners is considering raises and cost-of-living increases for employees and elected officials as recommended on April 19 by Deputy County Attorney Jeani Stone. 

Stone’s proposal for elected officials includes increasing salaries to match those of Crook County’s officials. She also included a cost-of-living adjustment of 7% a year for four years based on current and anticipated cost of living increases. 

“Elected salaries can only be considered in four-year blocks. We would need to do that before the filing for those positions (begins May 12),” Stone said.

She noted that, historically, Weston County has used Crook County as a comparison and so she used their salaries as a base. 

Currently, Weston County’s elected officials, including the sheriff, attorney, county clerk, district court clerk, treasurer and assessor, all make $60,000 a year, while the coroner and all five county commissioners make $14,400. 

Increases in the annual salaries of the county clerk, district court clerk, treasurer and assessor under Stone’s proposal would be $5,900, which would total of $65,900 per year. 

The proposed increase for the sheriff is larger, allowing for an additional $17,600 annually for a total salary of $77,600 per year for the county’s top cop. The increase proposed for the county attorney is even larger, with Stone suggesting $29,180 be added to the salary to bring it to $89,180 per year.

The coroner’s proposed salary increase is $10,100, which brings the annual total to $24,500, and the proposed increase for each commissioner is $11,550, bringing their total salary to $25,950 each year. 

If the commissioners were to approve the 7% cost-of-living adjustment for each of the next four years for elected officials, the clerk, assessor, district court clerk and treasurer would each make $86,381.45 per year by 2026. The 7% annual increase over four years would bring the sheriff’s yearly salary to $101,717.76 by 2026, the commissioners’ annual earnings to $34,015.15, the coroner’s 12 month tally to $32,114.49 and the county attorney’s yearly tab to $116,896.78. 

For employees, Stone proposed a 15% pay increase to the base and and additional 7% cost-of-living adjustment that can be considered on a yearly basis after 2022. According to Commissioner Nathan Todd, the 15% increase would cost the county $317,000 each year, with an additional $148,000 tacked on for the 7% cost-of-living adjustment. He noted that the annual 7% cost-of-living adjustment for employees would cost the county $592,000 over four years. 

These increases, as noted by Clerk Becky Hadlock, do not include the associated benefit costs for the additional dollars that will be spent on things like health insurance premiums and retirement contributions 

“It is a lot to take in. It is going to take a lot of analyzing the information,” Stone said. “You have a lot of different things to consider, but from the elected standpoint, you only have the opportunity every four years.” 

Chairman Marty Ertman questioned whether or not Stone had taken an evaluation into the benefits provided by Weston County and how those compared with other counties, specifically Crook. 

“When we do the budget, it (benefits) is a phenomenal number. I don’t know if the public sees what we pay for benefits,” Ertman said. 


According to the fiscal year 2022 budget, health insurance alone presently costs the county $740,000 per year. Other benefits include Social Security at $200,000 a year, retirement at $424,000 a year, and workers’ compensation at $25,000 a year. 

According to Todd, Weston County pays 100% of the county employees’ retirement match when only 50% is statutorily required. Ertman added that the county has also historically absorbed increases to health insurance and other benefits instead of passing cost increases on to the employee. 

“There is a fine line between what the county can and can’t do,” Todd said, noting that Stone has proposed a 67% increase, or roughly $840,000 a year, in just salaries. 

Todd suggested that before the commissioners make a decision they reach out to the employees to see what is most important — benefits or an increase in salary. 

“We could weigh that. I hate sitting here and guessing,” he said. “There are going to be people that are upset if we increase wages.” 

Todd noted that increases to cost of living are not just a Weston County issue but a countrywide issue and that people in every field of work are facing cost increases, but not necessarily increases to their pay schedule. 

Commissioner Tony Barton suggested that the county consider crafting various options for the employees. 

“I think that is possible,” Stone said. “I think the employees feel under appreciated with the money they make now – maybe we provide more paid leave. … We need to think, what can we do to show employees that we value them.” 

Commissioner Don Taylor also suggested that the county may want to consider less drastic pay increases. 

“They deserve a cost-of-living increase,” Taylor said. 

No decision on raises were made by the end of the meeting. The commissioners planned to reconsider the suggestion on May 3. 

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