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Davison County officials get raises

The Davison County commissioners approved salary increases of 2 percent plus 50 cents an hour to certain elected officials at Tuesday’s regular meeting at the courthouse in Mitchell.

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Commission Chairman John Claggett said the raises, which are effective for 2014, are the same bump in pay the commissioners have given for “the past five or six years.” Earning raises were Auditor Susan Kiepke, Treasurer Christie Gunkel, Register of Deeds Deb Young, Sheriff Steve Brink and State’s Attorney Jim Miskimins.

The raises mirror the pay increases given to other county employees.

“Years ago we were giving 3 percent raises, which is common,” Claggett said. “We moved to a 2 percent with 50 cents an hour increase to bring the starting wage up more than increasing at the top. It was a good way to lift the bottom up and employees all the way across the county.”

South Dakota codified law has salary guidelines that each county elected position must meet. Those guidelines are based on the population of each county, and the salaries increase with higher populated counties. All of the positions that saw salary increases Tuesday are above the minimums for Davison County.

In Davison County, the auditor, treasurer and register of deeds may not have salaries less than $34,444 for 2014. All three positions will make a base pay of $49,555.77 in 2014, according to the resolution approved by the commissioners Tuesday. That’s an annual raise of $1,991.29 apiece for Kiepke and Young. Gunkel made $43,564.48 in her first year working for the county, and her raise will be $5,991.29.

Young, who has the most tenure with the county among the three officials, declined to comment when asked her opinion about equal pay for the three positions. She started her job in 1994, while Kiepke started as auditor in 2006 and Gunkel started in 2013. Kiepke also had no comment about the equal pay grades.

“The commissioners have typically started a new official at a lower wage than the other two are making and then bumped them up,” Kiepke said. “That’s just the way they’ve done it historically.”

County employees can receive longevity pay. They receive an extra $100 during their sixth year of employment, and then increasing amounts of longevity pay each year until reaching $200 of annual longevity pay in year 10. After that, $50 is added each year, so employees get $250 in longevity pay in year 11, $300 in year 12, and so on.

“I’m very grateful for my job and the raise this year,” Young said.

The sheriff in Davison County must have a salary of at least $42,893 in 2014 and receive an additional 10 percent for managing a full-time jail, for a total minimum of $47,182.30. Sheriff Brink was appointed in January 2013 after the previous sheriff, Dave Miles, retired. Brink’s starting wage was $54,482 earlier this year and he will now make $56,611.64 with Tuesday’s raise.

The state’s attorney in Davison County must make at least $66,543, per codified law. Miskimins started his position in 2012 and will make $76,371.09 this year, an increase of $2,517.08 from his 2013 salary.

“These are elected positions, not appointed, so we need to get quality folks interested and continue to move up the salaries,” Commissioner Randy Reider said.

The salaries of the county commissioners will be set at their next meeting Tuesday at the courthouse in Mitchell. South Dakota law states that their salaries may be set by the board of county commissioners at the first regular meeting of each year. The county commissioners were paid $14,803.09 annually in 2013. State law does not contain minimum compensation amounts for commissioners but does include amounts commissioners shall be paid if they fail to agree on salaries or per diems.

POET manager seeks support

Becky Pitz, manager of the Poet ethanol plant in Loomis, asked for a support letter from the commissioners to the Environmental Protection Agency regarding the EPA’s proposed renewable volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard for 2014.

According to Pitz, the EPA has proposed to reduce the volumes set by Congress for corn-based ethanol from 14.4 billion gallons to 13 billion gallons. The letter she gave the commissioners claims the reduction in volume could decrease the price of corn by up to $1 per bushel.

“We need to continue the volumes,” she said. “We employ 43 people, have more than a $2 million payroll and produce up to 75 million gallons per year. You can see when agriculture does well in the community, the community does well. We’re asking for your support.”

The commissioners did not vote but verbally agreed to draft a letter to possibly sign at a future meeting.

Other business

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners:

  • Announced Commissioner Kim Weitala was absent.
  • Approved to pay $92,701 from the general fund contingency budget to offset extra spending in 11 departments, which were Abused and Neglected CD ($3,918), North County Building ($21,594); Veteran’s Service Officer ($547); County Coordinator ($1,740); GIS ($350); Jail ($17,635); 24/7 Sobriety program ($8,060); Coroner (7,590); Juvenile Detention ($4,928); Community Health Nurse ($20,668); WIC ($5,671).
  • Mitchell resident Darwin Buus thanked the commissioners during citizens’ input for reappointing the current Veteran Service Officer, Steve McClure, to a new, four-year term at a meeting in December.
  • Approved a motion to purchase and have installed four computer-monitoring systems on machines with motor graders that run blades, usually for snow plowing and road work, for an estimated cost of $900 installed each, or a total cost of $3,600.
  • Heard Matt Tobin, of Butler CAT Machinery, explain maintainers that were approved for purchase earlier this year will not arrive at their expected time, but he guessed they will arrive by the end of January or beginning of February.
  • Approved a salary increase for Brian Boddicker, full-time corrections officer, to $13.39 an hour; approved a hire of Judy Keller, 24/7 officer, at $11.20 an hour; and approved to accept a grant from the state for the 24/7 Sobriety program that gives money for staffing to the county jail.
  • Approved, at the recommendation of the state, reconciling the flexible spending account; according to Auditor Susan Kiepke, the account has about $20,000 and will be set to hold $5,000, so the remaining money will be transferred to the general fund account.