September 3, 2008
Commissioners' Conference Room
Budget Committee Members Present: Chair Alice Kaseberg presided with Scott Bartlett, Bill Fleenor, Bobby Green, Sr., Denis Hijmans, Tony McCown, Peter Sorenson and Faye Stewart present. David Crowell and Bill Dwyer were excused. County Administrator Jeff Spartz, County Counsel Teresa Wilson and Recording Secretary Melissa Zimmer were also present.
DISCUSSION/Elected Officials Compensation Board Recommendations.
Greta Utecht, Human Resources, reported the maximum increase cost for raises for elected officials is $71,485. She said that any increase for the commissioners is not able to take effect until January. She reported for FY 08/09 they need to divide that figure by 50 percent and that amount is really $35,600. She noted that under the charter no increases to the compensation for the commissioners can take effect until January following a general election.
Utecht explained that the Elected Officials Compensation Board made three recommendations. She said they recommended the Sheriff’s base salary be adjusted and they recommended that the commissioners’ base salary be adjusted. She added that they also recommended for all of the elected officials to be granted the same cost of living adjustment and changes in benefits that are granted to other non-represented employees. She noted for FY 08/09, non-represented employees (other than the elected officials) have been granted a 2 percent COLA and a 1 percent deferred compensation contribution. She said if the Budget Committee were to endorse the recommendations of the Elected Officials Compensation Board, there would be an adjustment to the Sheriff’s base salary, an adjustment to the commissioners’ base salary and the cost of living adjustment 2 percent plus a 1 percent deferred compensation contribution.
Sorenson asked if they could find out the cost of living increase that has been granted to Social Security recipients over the same time period.
Utecht said she could obtain that information. She said if they compare the Portland Salem index to the CPI to other places around the country, the national CPI is higher; about 5.2 percent versus 4.1 percent in 2008. She wasn’t sure whether or not the Social Security index is more in line with the national average.
MOTION: to move Option 3, that they do not make any changes to the Elected Officials Compensation.
Green MOVED, Fleenor SECONDED.
Green said they are deficit spending in the County. He said they dipped into their reserves for over $200,000 for other causes. He commented that they still live in an environment of uncertainty and they haven’t seen movement with the reauthorization of Secure Rural Schools. He stated there is really not a good time to have this discussion. He thought it would send a message that they recognize the realities of people who have lost jobs in Lane County. He didn’t think it would serve them well to take this issue further.
Bartlett thought this issue could be revisited next year. He thought they should deny this.
McCown didn’t think it was the time and place to be giving raises. He thought it was prudent for the Board to explore options in the near future to adjust board policy. He supported Option 3 but thought it was a good idea to explore other options sooner than later.
Green commented that his motion was not to slight the work of the Elected Officials Compensation Board. He thought this could buy the Board good will.
Utecht explained that there is state statute that is questionable as to whether it holds the Board to its provisions because of the Home Rule Charter status of Lane County. She noted in Lane Manual they have incorporated language that talked about the issue. She thought if they took Option 3, they might be in violation of a Lane Manual section that states the Sheriff shall be paid higher than the highest paid Sheriff’s employees.
Wilson indicated the Board of Commissioners has the ability to redefine the compensation. She added that they had the option to redefine this for the purpose of this analysis as meaning salary only.
Utecht said they could delete the section about the Sheriff.
Fleenor asked if they could lower the Under Sheriff’s salary to be consistent. He asked what authority the Budget Committee had with the Sheriff’s Department.
Utecht responded that the Under Sheriff is considered a classified employee. She added as a Board, they had already stipulated the pay plan for the position the Under Sheriff falls within. She said if they choose to single out the Under Sheriff, they would be asking that the compensation plan for all of the positions that fall within that classification be adjusted as well.
Wilson explained that this problem is not unique to Lane County. She indicated the state statute makes this problematic and other counties are having the same problem. She said the majority of the workforce in the Sheriff’s Office is under collective bargaining. She said binding interest arbitration will set the compensation of the collectively bargained work force.
Fleenor asked why the Sheriff was given favorable treatment and not the other elected officials.
Wilson explained that the Sheriff’s position with respect to County government has been one that had political clout and it is reflected in the legislation.
Utecht said if the Budget Committee passes this motion, they will be in a technical violation.
Wilson cautioned the Board that any position in which they classify downward, they are effectively doing a form of layoff. She noted the positions in the Sheriff’s Office (including the Under Sheriff) are entitled to merit increases in accordance with the Classification Compensation Plan the Board has put in place. She added that singling out one position because of a political problem could be problematic.
Utecht indicated there were a number of ways to address this. She said if they are forcing compensation for the Sheriff because of the language in Lane Manual, her recommendation is that they remove that section of Lane Manual that refers to the Sheriff. She said the Board has defined total compensation and set and done all of the analysis based on total compensation. She noted that as of today, the Sheriff (when they use the total compensation definition) is 1.1 percent below the Under Sheriff, based on the COLA and deferred comp that was already approved for non-represented employees except for elected officials. She added now with the raise the Under Sheriff received, he is now four percent over the Sheriff for salary and benefits. She noted the non-representative employees are on a compensation plan that was implemented in July 2007 and the in order to be fiscally conservative, everyone affected was moved onto the plan at their current salary, and no one was given a pay increase.
Bartlett asked what it would save the organization if there were a total freeze on COLA’s for the next year.
Due to bargaining, Utecht responded that there couldn’t be a total freeze.
Spartz thought they would save about $2 million annually.
Bartlett asked if they could align the other elected officials salaries with the Board of Commissioners, (except for the funding of the District Attorney).
Utecht didn’t know if there was anything to stop the Board from doing that. She said the Board would have to approve the recommendation in a board order. She stated that she wouldn’t recommend making the reductions.
Sorenson wanted the Social Security increases that have been made since 1994 for clerical work in the Portland Salem labor market. He wanted another comparison of what the overall increase is in the cost of living.
Utecht noted because of the requirements and recommendations that impact the commissioners’ salaries, increases have to be enacted prior to a general election. She said if the Budget Committee wants to resume this discussion, resumption would be too late to impact the Board of Commissioners. She added that because of the requirement that no changes can be made except for January of the year following the general election, if the Board chooses not to make any changes to the Board of Commissioners’ salaries or compensation, it means that nothing will take place for the Board of Commissioners until at least January 2011. She said coming back into session and looking at additional information on how it might impact the other elected officials’ salaries is within the time frame allocated because there are not the same restrictions as there are for the Board of Commissioners.
VOTE: 6-2 (Hijmans, Stewart dissenting).
Stewart stated he was in favor of keeping the salary for the Sheriff and moving the others to comply with Lane Code.
There being no further business, Chair Kaseberg adjourned the meeting at 12:55 p.m.