Pitkin County commissioners include DA raise in budget

Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times

Though he didn’t ask for it, Ninth Judicial District Attorney Jeff Cheney is getting a raise this budget season, along with the rest of his employees.

Cheney told Pitkin County commissioners earlier this week that he asked for a 3.1 percent wage increase for his employees as part of his annual budget requests, and Garfield County commissioners last month felt he should be included in the raises.

“I’m not expecting that,” he said Tuesday. “I didn’t ask for it and I don’t know that I deserve it, but I know that my team does.”

Cheney must ask commissioners in Pitkin, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties — which make up the Ninth Judicial District — to approve most of his office’s budget every year. The state of Colorado contributes Cheney’s salary of $125,086, leaving county taxpayers in the district responsible for $3.4 million for the 2019 budget, according to a memo from Cheney to Pitkin County commissioners.

While Cheney’s salary — like that of county commissioners — is set by state law, it can be increased if counties in the district approve it. Cheney’s raise for 2019 would add an extra $5,156 to the overall budget, of which Pitkin County’s share would be $1,105 Cheney said.

Commissioners George Newman and Rachel Richards said they supported the salary increase, while commissioner Steve Child praised Cheney’s leadership as district attorney.

“I don’t read about the District Attorney’s Office in the newspaper all the time,” Child said. “That’s a good thing to me.”

Overall, Cheney asked for a 1.8 percent budget increase over the office’s 2018 budget, which Child noted was less than the 2018 inflation rate of 2.7 percent.

The three counties in the district, by law, divvy up the DA’s budget based on population. That means Pitkin County pays 21.4 percent, Rio Blanco County contributes 7.6 percent and Garfield County puts in 71 percent.

Pitkin County’s share works out to $708,698, according to Cheney’s memo. Commissioners on Tuesday gave Cheney the thumbs-up to move forward with his proposed budget.

Cheney also told commissioners he wants to apply for a grant from the state for money to fight illegal marijuana cultivation but needs their permission. Commissioners said they were open to the idea, but wanted to check with other county officials, including Sheriff Joe DiSalvo, before committing.

DiSalvo said Friday he didn’t know enough about the program to comment.

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