October 3, 1996
ELECTED OFFICIALS' COMPENSATION BOARD
Commissioners' Conference Room - 5:15 p.m.

Members Verna Brown, Lauren Chouinard, Greg Evans (arrived at 5:45 p.m.), Bob Moulton and Ken Tollenaar were present for the meeting, attended by staff, including Bill Van Vactor, County Administrator; Teresa Wilson, County Counsel; David Suchart, Human Resources and Management Services Director; and Sharon Giles, Recording Secretary.

Van Vactor reviewed plans to discuss the salary schedule and the PERS reimbursement issue with regard to the commissioners, along with action with regard to the potential for any salary increases for other elected officials. He explained the process of the Elected Official Compensation Board. Van Vactor indicated this group’s recommendation would go to the Lane County Budget Committee on October 15 and then on to the Board of Commissioners for final action in late October.

Suchart reviewed the county commissioner compensation survey included in the packet (see material on file). He indicated that after looking at the survey, staff reviewed the point factor information for department directors as another methodology to see how close the figures factored out. Suchart reviewed the chart with salary history information. He indicated that all of this information was the basis for staff’s recommendation.

Responding to Tollenaar, Suchart indicated that he did not have the completed product of the factor analysis done on commissioners. Van Vactor observed that the ultimate responsibility for all county programs rests with the Board of Commissioners.

Teresa Wilson, County Counsel, briefly reviewed her memorandum regarding the PERS issue (see material on file), summarizing that commissioners did not receive the benefit of the salary increase granted to employees to offset the effects of the PERS ballot measure. She stressed that the Supreme Court has ruled the ballot measure unconstitutional. Responding to Brown, Wilson indicated there is the potential for a lawsuit if the back payment is not granted.

Tollenaar remarked that he prefers to look at the PERS issue as reimbursement rather than compensation; adding that if it is looked at as reimbursement, he doesn’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be approved for Jack Roberts or anyone else who has had to make the 6% contribution from their own pockets. After a brief discussion with Wilson, Tollenaar conceded that while utilizing "reimbursement" might attract a challenge via the charter, other risks are avoided by treating the matter as "compensation."

Tollenaar indicated that his methodology would begin by coming to agreement on a base salary. He noted that after excluding Washington County figures from the survey, he took the average of Douglas, Clackamas, Multnomah, Marion and Jackson and arrived at a target number of $52,380.

Brown’s comments included: 1) the need for solid rationale; 2) the expectation that the recommendation is doable and acceptable to the Budget Committee; 3) that compensation is commensurate with responsibility; 4) that the recommendation is one that the public will understand; and 5) that commissioners need to feel fairly treated. She noted that the recommendation of a 26.5% increase amounts to$11,132. With regard to the comparison with other counties, Brown observed the division of responsibility that varies in counties with three commissioners versus five commissioners. She also indicated that she would like to know the assessed property tax value of each county, commenting that it would be hard to compare the counties if assessed values were tremendously different. Brown summarized that, after analysis, she had determined that the counties were more different than they were alike.

Evans arrived at 5:45 p.m.

Brown continued that by comparing commissioner and employee increases from 1985 to 1995, there is a difference of 14.39%, which if given to the commissioners would increase their salary to $48,038. She expressed concern about not doing increases for many years and then a huge chunk at one time. Brown offered that one way of alleviating this would be by increasing commissioners’ salaries at the same CPI as employees receive. She summarized that she would be comfortable recommending either a 12% or 14% increase with one half of the increase effective in 1997 and the other half effective in 1998. In addition, Brown recommended that the commissioners’ salaries also be increased by the same CPI granted for employees in 1997 and 1998.

Moulton questioned the rationale of using assessed value, since Lane County is an O&C county and some are not, or do not get as much. He also indicated that the size of each county’s budget is a factor, along with the urban/rural nature of Lane County which provides more responsibility. Moulton stressed that Lane County is unique in other areas of responsibility, but he indicated that he likes Brown’s approach with reference to getting on a pattern of increases related to CPI. Brown replied that there is not enough criteria provided to pull a rationale from using county comparisons.

Evans agreed that comparisons are hard to make with other counties as Lane County is fairly unique with a lot of rural issues unlike Multnomah and others, adding that Lane County doesn’t fit a particular profile. He also agreed that he likes using the CPI for judgment/determination. Noting that using the 14% figure would raise the salary to $48,000, Evans indicated that he didn’t feel comfortable with just 14%, stressing the need to compensate public officials in a manner that makes it attractive for people to serve in the office and is commensurate with responsibilities.

Chouinard suggested adding in the 6% PERS-related compensation first, then figuring any salary increase, noting that methodology doesn’t make it look like such a large increase. It was determined that adding the 6% would bring the figure to $44,514. Chouinard also stressed his belief that the County should return to employer-paid pick-up, which could save the County thousands of dollars per year, while increasing employee income. Van Vactor remarked that that would be a complex process due to the seven bargaining units. Tollenaar agreed with Chouinard noting that it would be a "win-win" for everyone. He recommended that the County work as fast as possible to clear this with the unions and go back to County pick-up. Suchart added that there are also problems with the County’s comp plan. Moulton remarked that employees are on a seven-step range, while commissioners are not, which allows the employees annual merit increases. Van Vactor explained that the County employs a "mature" workforce, which means that many employees are already at the seventh step and do not receive further merit increases.

Chouinard remarked on the differential between non-elected department heads and commissioners. He noted that there was a 44% differential in 1985, a 59% differential in 1990 and that 1996 shows a differential of 84%. Tollenaar remarked that there is a strong case for a compensation increase using the basis of comparison with other counties and the point factor comparison with department heads. He noted, however, that he sees a problem with what the public can/will accept and understand and feel is fair. Moulton observed that historically commissioners have been willing to pay their employees a fair wage, but there has never been parity between salaries for commissioners and employees.

Evans emphasized that he sees it as a priority to begin with what the public will accept and what is fair. He noted that the County has just come off of several levies in the past several years purporting to be broke and on the verge of economic collapse, i.e. reductions in rural patrols, etc. Evans stressed the need to balance issues. He suggested beginning with the 6% increase in terms of fairness and delineating it as strictly PERS and that that would be palatable to all. Evans indicated that he would then recommend bringing the salary up on the CPI basis,8.39%, to $48,250. He remarked on the need to be careful considering the climate the County is in. Evans stated that this recommendation is reasonable, conservative, and easy for the public to understand. He added that he would also support the commissioners receiving the same COLAs as employees for the next two years. Chouinard indicated that he could support Evans’ approach.

Tollenaar stated that he was not comfortable with the seeming consensus, stressing that the commissioners’ jobs are very complex and challenging, and that it is not easy to be a commissioner in this county. He also noted that the salaries would still be way off with department heads and substantially behind comparative counties, indicating that he would be more comfortable with $52,500.

Responding to Brown, Evans indicated that he would like to see the raise given all at one time, as the 6% is being given out of fairness and the 8.39% is the actual increase. Responding to Brown, Van Vactor indicated that the County was in a position to absorb such an increase. Chouinard pointed out that passage of Ballot Measure 47 could have a huge impact.

CONSENSUS was reached, with some reservations by Moulton and Tollenaar, to increase the annual salaries of commissioners by 6% from $41,995 to $44,414 to offset PERS payments, and by 8.39% to $48,250 to reflect the average increase given to other County employees between 1985 and 1995.

There was also CONSENSUS that based on the Supreme Court decision holding Ballot Measure 8 to be unconstitutional, there would be a one-time compensation payment equivalent to what was withheld by the County for PERS contributions during the period December 2, 1994 and December 31, 1996. Suchart indicated this would total $26,775.33. Members also strongly recommended that the County consider returning to the PERS payment method utilized before December, 1994.

Final CONSENSUS was reached that the Commissioners, the Sheriff, the Assessor, the District Attorney and the Justice Court Judges be granted a Cost of Living Allowance equal to the average COLA granted to employees, if any, in 1997 and 1998.

Wilson distributed copies of the modified Order.

MOTION: Approval of the proposed Order adjusting salaries of elected officials. Evans MOVED, Chouinard SECONDED.

VOTE: 5-0.

There being no further business, this meeting adjourned at 7:02 p.m.

 

Sharon Giles, Recording Secretary

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