Elected county officials to receive salary raise
County staff had proposed a $40K raise for the sheriff and a $30K raise for the county attorney, but the county commission approved just $7,500 for each. Commissioners rejected a raise for themselves.
Most county-wide elected officials will receive a modest raise in 2023 — the first raise those offices have received since 2014.
The Albany County Commission voted to set salaries for the county’s three commissioners and seven elected officials during a meeting Tuesday.
“Nobody likes having this conversation,” Commissioner Heber Richardson said. “It’s dicey for elected officials to give themselves raises. And it’s hard for the public to see what the challenges are for attracting these jobs.”
In fact, the commissioners did not raise their own salary, though they were given the option to do so. Commissioners currently make $30,000 a year; they’ll continue to make that same amount through 2026.
“We can make no more than the lowest paid county employee,” Commission Chair Pete Gosar said. “We are bound by that, which I think is a wonderful rule.”
But even with that stipulation, they could have raised their own salaries to $35,000. They elected not to do so. Richardson said raising salaries for the professionals elected to county offices was important, but that the commissioners serve a different function.
“Our position is more political and more public service-ish than someone who is making it their career to do tax assessments,” he said. “I’m not a certified commissioner. I’m just a knucklehead who managed to get elected.”
The county coroner, who serves part-time, also did not receive a raise. But the county attorney, sheriff, county clerk, county assessor, county treasurer and clerk of district court will see a $7,500 raise.
Below are the various county-wide elected offices, the current salary for that office-holder, and the salary that office-holder will begin to earn in 2023.
County attorney: $95,000 to $102,500
Sheriff: $85,000 to $92,500
County Clerk: $85,000 to $92,500
County Assessor: $85,000 to $92,500
County Treasurer: $85,000 to $92,500
Clerk of District Court: $85,000 to $92,500
County Coroner: Staying at $45,000
County Commissioners: Staying at $30,000
The commissioners actually raised official salaries by less than county staff suggested. The original proposal presented to commissioners would have raised their own salaries by $5,000, raised the county clerk, assessor, treasurer, and district court clerk salaries by $10,000, and raised the county attorney’s salary by $30,000. Under the original proposal, the sheriff would have received a $40,000 raise to make $125,000 alongside the county attorney.
Commissioner Sue Ibarra immediately rejected those proposed raises.
“I don’t feel we need to do that big a jump right now,” she said. “I don’t think we can afford that big a jump right now, especially with the sheriff and attorney.”
The proposed raises would have cost the county an additional $120,000 next year. (Ibarra would not get a raise, because the raises only take effect after an election, and Ibarra holds the only seat in the county not up for election on the 2022 ballot.)
Instead, the approved raises listed above will cost the county $45,000 a year.
“I think we should step it up gradually,” Gosar said. “In four years, another commission can set whatever schedule they want to set.”
Gosar added it was important not to raise the highest salaries without also raising the lowest.
“We have not raised the lowest salary we pay for the most junior employee since 1992,” he said. “So unless we’re interested in moving them at least what we’re interested in moving the upper end, we now make the income disparity much bigger. I seriously have a problem with that.”
“As far as the pay disparity goes, I don’t have the same angst as you,” Richardson said, adding that a cook in the detention center faces less responsibility than the county assessor or attorney. “But I do think we have some positions that are definitely underpaid and that’s why we can’t attract talent.”
The highest salary approved by the commissioners Tuesday — that of the county attorney — will be partially reimbursed by the state, which covers 50 percent or $50,000 of the attorney’s pay, whichever is less.
“We only have to spend 50 cents on the dollar for our attorney,” Richardson said. “I don’t love attorneys, but I want a good one and I’m willing to pay for it.”
The commission will set county employee salaries when they dig into the budget. The approved raises for county-wide elected officials will take effect in 2023 and must stay at that level through 2026.