Garfield County still to weigh elected officials pay raises
Garfield County has not yet decided on pay raises for county commissioners, the sheriff and other county elected officials as authorized through state legislation that was passed earlier this year, contrary to the assertions of a recent Post Independent letter writer.
“All of the county elected officials have to be in agreement before we can increase the pay,” County Commission Chairman John Martin said on Monday. “We will have that conversation in 2016 whether this is something we want to see happen.”
In any case, if raises are approved they would not go into effect until 2017 for elected offices that are to be decided in the November 2016 election, and in 2019 for offices that are up for election in 2018, Martin said.
Elected officials who are currently in the middle of a term cannot receive a raise unless they are re-elected, he said, countering a letter-writer who indicated that the decision to give raises to Garfield elected officials had already been made.
Colorado Senate Bill 15-288, which was signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper in the spring, authorized pay raises for state and county elected officials. It’s the first such raise in several years.
The 30 percent raises will apply to the next governor, whoever that ends up being after the 2018 election, and other statewide offices, such as the secretary of state and the attorney general, as well as state legislators.
It also applies to county level elected officials. However, individual counties can opt to enact pay increases ranging from 10 percent to 30 percent, or take no raises at all, Martin explained.
Pay for county elected officials is determined based on a county’s size in six different categories. Garfield County is among the Category 2 counties, along with Eagle, Fremont, La Plata, Mesa, Pitkin, Routt and Summit counties.
Currently, according to the text of SB-288, sheriffs are the highest-paid county elected officials in Category 2, at $87,700 per year, followed by the county commissioner, assessor, treasurer and clerk and recorder offices at $72,500 each. The part-time positions of county coroner and surveyor are paid $44,200 and $4,400, respectively.
Under the recently approved legislation, county commissioners and comparable offices in counties the size of Garfield could be paid as much $94,250, if the 30 percent increase is OK’d, and the sheriff’s office pay could go to as much as $114,010.
But the rate of pay is still dependent on a county’s ability to absorb the increase, Martin said. And in Garfield County’s case, commissioners are already looking at holding the line on spending, or even making significant cuts in the coming years due to an expected decline in property taxes from oil and gas production.
For next year, county commissioners did decide to award a 2.5 percent increase in pay for county employees, not including elected officials. Those raises will take effect in January, rather than at mid-year as the county has done with previous pay raises, Martin said.
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