The Buena Vista County elected officials will all receive a 4 percent wage increase in the upcoming fiscal year - half of what the BV County Compensation Board recommended to the Board of Supervisors, it was decided on Tuesday.
Supervisor Paul Merten opened the discussion.
"The number I've had in my mind comes after the estimations, the evaluations, the ongoing projects and the fact that insurance will not be going up. Raises will be felt and have more effect. My recommendation is 4 percent."
Other board members said they had been thinking of figures in the same ballpark.
"I am happy with the wages we're paying," said supervisors chairman Dale Arends. "Part of our responsibility is to maintain the ship - but we don't want to put the ship in danger. It would be wonderful if we had unlimited funds. The county doesn't have it. We have to live within our means."
Wages of the deputies and clerks are also affected by the increase - passed down as percentages of the elected officials' pay. In looking at the budget impact, $53,000 more will be going out to the elected officials and those deputies and clerks - making up only 33 of the 133 county employees.
The board also discussed in length the current longevity policy. As it has been, with five years of service, an extra $15 per month is tagged on to the wages; after 10 years, wages increase by $25 per month and continue to rise with each five-year increment up to $65 per month (30 years of service.)
Since the 1970s, the elected officials have received the longevity rewards with the option of passing it on to their eligible deputies and employees "if they see fit." As the policy reads now, not all employees are even eligible for the longevity funds; at least nine positions are not, according to auditor Karen Strawn.
Merten said he'd like to see "consistency" and a way to eliminate comments spread among employees questioning why one received the extra funds and another did not.
"I think we should take this off the department heads. This is a reward. If you're here that many years, you're doing something right."
Chairman Arends agreed, saying "It's the fair thing to do. I have a conflict with the idea that the elected officials have this decision to make. It's a fairness issue for me. Longevity is the number of years someone has been employed; it has nothing to do with merit."
The supervisors made the decision to include all full-time employees to be eligible for the funds automatically. The department heads will no longer make the distinction.
The supervisors took into consideration the new longevity scale when they made their decision to grant the 4 percent wage increase.
Employee pay will be budgeted later.