Sedgwick County officials can decide whether to accept pay raises

07/16/2014 1:10 PM

07/16/2014 1:10 PM

Elected leaders for Sedgwick County must cast a personal vote in the next few weeks: whether they want their own paychecks to grow.

County Manager William Buchanan recently sent e-mails to commissioners, Sheriff Jeff Easter, District Attorney Marc Bennett, Clerk Kelly Arnold, Treasurer Linda Kizzire and Register of Deeds Bill Meek telling them they were eligible for salary increases as a result of a job classification and compensation study. He asked them to let the county know by July 13 if they wanted to accept the increase.

The study found that county salaries were, on average, 3.75 percent below market wages. Buchanan said the county could not afford to adjust wages that much and agreed to an average 1.26 percent increase. Some elected officials will see greater increases because they had previously rejected pay hikes.

The increases are “based on where the salaries would be for those positions if prior year increases had not been declined. That number is greater than the 1.26, but had a similar effect to bring current salaries closer in line to market,” said interim human resources director Tim Kaufman.

Arnold, Kizzire and Meek all said they would accept the increases.

“I have supported the commissioners’ decision to do an overall countywide compensation study for all our employees — something that has not been done in over 10 years,” Arnold said in an e-mail to The Eagle. “Our employees are very talented and work hard to serve the public.”

He said he, too, would take a bump to his paycheck. Arnold, Kizzire and Meek will see their salaries increase from $80,442 to $82,500, a $2,058, or 2.6 percent, increase recommended by the study.

Commissioners are eligible for a bump from $83,718 to $84,772, a $1,054, or 1.26 percent, increase for now.

In January, commissioner salaries will rise again, to $89,715 — what their salaries would be if commissioners hadn’t rejected earlier increases. Their salaries are increasing then because two new commissioners, representing District 4 and District 5, could come on board in January. Commissioners will have the option of declining that increase, too.

Commissioners Karl Peterjohn and Richard Ranzau, both Republicans, said they won’t accept pay increases. Peterjohn said he made a promise to not accept a pay increase unless the county’s unemployment rate was below state and federal averages.

“At this point with the economy being where it’s been with a number of people in this community who are struggling and the fact that unemployment in our area is above the state average, I didn’t think I deserved a raise,” Peterjohn said. “We’re below the national average. So I’ve met half the criteria but I haven’t met the full criteria.”

The U.S. employment rate was 6.3 percent in April and May. Kansas’ rate was 4.8 percent in April, the most recent available, and the metro Wichita area was at 5.8 percent in April.

Ranzau said he made a personal decision to reject a pay adjustment.

Commissioner Dave Unruh said he likely would accept an increase but is “still kicking it around. I have a month to decide.”

The Eagle was unable to reach Commissioners Tim Norton and Jim Skelton.

The sheriff said he refused an increase when he took office because “I was new. I didn’t think I deserved a raise, and there were no raises for employees.”

This year, he said, his employees are getting 1.26 percent increases, so he decided to accept the adjustment.

Easter’s annual salary will increase from $120,987 to $126,491, a $5,504, or 4.5 percent, increase. His salary is increasing by more than 1.26 percent because he and previous sheriffs have previously rejected increases.

The district attorney’s salary is set to increase from $142,796 to $145,651, a $2,855, or 1.9 percent, increase.

Bennett said Wednesday he still was considering whether he would accept the raise.

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