Sedgwick County commissioners decline pay raises; other officials accept

Sedgwick County commissioners said “thanks, but no thanks” to a 2.5 percent raise this year, but other elected officials took the pay increase, records show.

In November, commissioners approved a 2.5 percent pool for performance-based raises for employees. Under the raise pool, employees could receive a raise of up to 4 percent. Some received no raise.

Three commissioners — Tim Norton, Jim Skelton and Dave Unruh — voted to give raises at an estimated cost of $3.3 million. Commissioners Karl Peterjohn and Richard Ranzau voted against increasing pay, saying the economy still was too uncertain.

Even though Norton, Skelton and Unruh approved raises, they declined to take one. So did Peterjohn and Ranzau.

Peterjohn said publicly from the commission bench that he would not accept a pay raise.

The base pay for a commissioner is $83,718 and has not changed since 2009, said deputy finance director Troy Bruun.

In the past few years, the county has frozen pay or offered only raises to those making less than $75,000. Commissioners and other elected officials in the past have declined raises.

County Clerk Kelly Arnold, Treasurer Linda Kizzire and Register of Deeds Bill Meek accepted the raises this year, records show.

Sheriff Jeff Easter, who recently took office, said he had intended to decline the 2.5 percent increase to the sheriff’s salary. He learned Friday from The Eagle that the salary the county was paying him, $120,987, included the increase. He asked staff to research how the error occurred and said his salary would be adjusted.

Similarly, the new salaries for Skelton and Unruh included the increases, but they said they had not intended to take raises.

“We have laid people off,” Skelton said. “I consider myself very fortunate. I don’t need it.”

The salary for newly elected district attorney Marc Bennett — $139,313 — includes a 2.5 percent increase to that position. DA spokeswoman Georgia Cole said when Bennett took office Jan. 14, human resources told the district attorney’s office that the salary was $139,313.

The base salary for Arnold, Kizzire and Meek this year is $78,480.

Elected officials receive whatever percentage the salary pool is when raises are awarded, Bruun said in an e-mail.

“It’s been three years since I’ve had a raise,” Meek said. “I had voluntarily declined it in the past.”

Arnold thought he, Meek and Kizzire had gone without raises for four years.

Bruun said in 2009, the county’s raise pool was 3.5 percent. In 2010, only those making less than $75,000 were eligible for raises. In 2011, there was a 2 percent raise pool, but all elected officials declined it. Last year, no one at the county received a raise.

Meek said he accepted the 2013 raise because it helped offset increased costs of health coverage. County Manager William Buchanan took a broader approach to total compensation for this year that reduced the county’s cost for providing health insurance and encouraged employees to take more responsibility for their health.

Arnold said he, Kizzire and Meek “kind of waited to see what the manager’s proposal was going to be. I thought the manager did a good job thinking outside the box about how to save the county money with health and medical benefits but make that up to employees with a 2.5 percent pay pool. It was something we agreed was a good plan, both for the taxpayers and the employers.”

Kizzire said this year’s raise was her first since she was appointed to the job in 2011. Voters elected her treasurer in November.

Kizzire said with “gas prices and health insurance” increases, a raise seemed fair. She said passing more of the cost of insurance on to employees and changing offerings saved taxpayers money.

“I commend him for his efforts to find the best value for the county’s dollars as far as health insurance,” Kizzire said.

Buchanan received a 2.5 percent raise this year, increasing his salary from $178,597 to $183,062.

Wichita City Manager Robert Layton recently received an 8 percent raise at City Hall, increasing his salary to $204,795.