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Some Buchanan County officeholders might be smarting at the thought of going a couple more years stuck on $68,000 a year in base pay.

In odd-numbered years, these officials meet to consider a possible salary increase for their elected positions. A motion to bump the pay from $68,000 to $70,000 was rejected, with six voting against it and five in favor.

For the record, those voting against the proposal were Auditor Tara Horn, Eastern District Commissioner Scott Burnham, Presiding Commissioner Lee Sawyer, Public Administrator Annette Bertelsen, Recorder Becky Dunlap and Collector Peggy Campbell.

Those in favor were Western District Commissioner Ron Hook, Sheriff Bill Puett, Prosecutor Ron Holliday, Clerk Mary Baack-Garvey and Treasurer David Gall. Assessor Dean Wilson, who took office in August, abstained.

For those on the losing side of this vote, it might seem unfair to go two or more years without a pay increase and to have to take an open vote knowing how public opinion leans on this one. But this is the season of thankfulness, and these officials have plenty of reason to count their blessings.


— You’re not teachers. An elected officeholder stands to make $68,000 a year on day one. In the St. Joseph School District, a teacher with a master’s degree tops out at $67,034 after 31 years.

— You’re not everyone else. The median household income in St. Joseph is $48,197. Horn, the auditor who voted against the increase, pointed out that some courthouse employees make less than $30,000 a year.

— You’ve taken care of yourself in the past. Ten years ago, elected officials were making $55,000 a year, so salaries have risen a total of 23% since then.

— No one will ever accuse you of benefiting from an unfunded mandate. The prosecutor is paid $145,000 a year and the sheriff is in line to receive $116,000 because that’s what the legislature requires. Salaries for other positions are determined the way they should be, in public by the people who must go before voters every four years.

— You can blame two TFGs. Former Treasurer John Nash and Assessor Scot Van Meter goosed their salaries with cost-of-living adjustments, despite a difference of opinion on whether this was appropriate. This created confusion, both in the courthouse and the general public. It’s reasonable to expect a couple of years of allowing salaries between offices to become more equalized.

— You only have to work 37.5 hours a week.

So there are your glass-half-full thoughts for officeholders to consider on the week of Thanksgiving. The courthouse, of course, will be closed this coming Thursday and Friday.

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