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OUR VIEW: Rationale for county raises is questionable

We don’t have issues with pay raises per se, but we once again are questioning how the Davison County Commission decides upon increases for itself and county employees.

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Last January, the commission gave uniform raises of 2 percent, plus 50 cents per hour, to employees. For an employee who earned $12 per hour, that raise came to $1,539, or 6.2 percent. For an employee who earned $15 per hour, that raise was $1,664, or 5.3 percent.

The commissioners also voted last year to raise their own salaries from $14,003 to $14,803, an increase of 5.7 percent.

And this week, commissioners jumped the pay of several of the county’s elected officials. Most notable was the jump in pay for Davison County Treasurer Christie Gunkel, whose pay went from $43,564 to $49,555, an increase of 14 percent.

Gunkel now earns the same as longtime Register of Deeds Deb Young and Auditor Susan Kiepke, whose tenure is also longer than Gunkel’s. We have no issues with Gunkel’s work, but question the decision-making process.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Steve Brink, whose hours certainly must be tedious and who deals with criminals and convicts, saw his pay raise only 4 percent.

Again, we are not against all pay raises, but we just have not agreed with the commissioners’ rationale. Typical pay raises in typical companies generally are around 3 percent annually, although we know of some companies that have limited raises to 2 percent in recent years.

We also know that many companies only give raises based upon merit, and do not administer across-the-board increases.

County employees work for the people and are paid with the people’s money. Commissioners must be more cognizant of that.

In the future, commissioners should seriously reconsider how raises are given.

For example:

  • The practice of giving 2 percent raises, plus 50 cents per hour, is more generous to employees on the lower end of the pay scale. That’s noble, but it’s not fair to employees who earn more and whose importance to the county, it could be argued, is higher.
  • Elected officials do deserve raises, but grant those raises based upon special circumstances — such as great innovation or improvement to public service — or simply administer the raises based upon terms in office. We feel election victories are a good indicator how the public feels about the elected employee, and it could be argued that an official who’s been in office several terms should earn a little more than an official in a first term.
  • Keep raises modest, and typical of the business climate in the region. It is distasteful for private employees to receive 1 or 2 percent increases and see that taxpayer money is being used for 6 percent across-the-board raises.
  • Consider the difference in jobs when considering raises. Employees who are required to work odd hours and in special or dangerous circumstances sometimes deserve bigger raises than others.