County pay plan a good beginning

Though it represents only a small step on the road to fiscal responsibility, the county board’s adoption last Thursday of a new pay schedule for four county officers is, indeed, a step in the right direction.
The revised salary schedule applies to the offices of county clerk & recorder, county treasurer, supervisor of assessments and county sheriff.
Candidates who are elected for sheriff and clerk & recorder will be paid 7 percent less than the officials currently holding those offices, because in both races, the incumbents are not seeking re-election. Thus, the new office holders will begin at the base salary on the schedule.
Incumbents who are re-elected this November, however, will actually see a slight pay increase under the new structure, which establishes the pay level based on the number of terms a person has been in office. It includes a 3-percent step increase in each of the second, third and fourth four-year terms – with salaries then to be capped at that fourth level.
In two years, the salaries of the state’s attorney, circuit clerk and county coroner could be reconfigured to conform to the same four-step structure.
We’re not happy when anyone’s pay is cut, but the financial position of the county dictates that some action must be taken. As Fayette County Board Chairman Steve Knebel said at Thursday’s meeting, “…we’ve got to be responsible and do something.”
The county’s plight was clearly shown when the board on Thursday approved another withdrawal (this one for $250,000) from the county’s dwindling capital improvement fund to cover payroll later this month. That fund, which originated from the sale of the county’s coal rights several years ago, has shrunk from about $5.5 million to near $2 million currently.
At Thursday’s meeting, the board also approved a bid of $662,000 for a project to fix leaking roofs at the courthouse and the jail. Big ticket items such as that are reasons the capital improvement fund must be preserved. Instead, it’s being whittled away to nothing just to meet the county’s payroll.
What will happen in the not-too-distant future when the fund is gone? Where will the payroll money come from when the capital fund is not available to raid?
Staffing levels must be scrutinized and salary structures changed. Perhaps the board’s small step last week will lead to other steps to create a sustainable plan for the future.
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