One proposal would increase the salary of Fayette County’s coroner by $3,000 next year, with $1,000 increases in each of the following three years. A second would hike the salary by $11,000.
Neither of those proposals was approved on Tuesday.
Last month, Coroner David Harris asked to the Fayette County Board to put the coroner’s salary more in line with other county officers.
While the job has been classified as part-time, Harris said, he is putting in the hours of a full-time employee.
After lengthy discussion, the county board, during a finance committee meeting before its regular meeting, recommended a vote on increasing the salary from $28,000 to $31,000 next year.
That proposal included a $1,000 increase in the following three years.
Board member Jennifer Waggoner said during a budget meeting that Harris had asked the salary be increased to $45,000, matching that of the coroner’s salary in Effingham County. His request would have the coroner’s salary at $51,000.
Talking about the county’s finances, Waggoner said that right now, “it’s not hurting us, as to the state’s minimum wage law, “but come two or three years from now, the county’s going to be hurting” when the minimum is $15 an hour.
As to whether the coroner position is part-time or full-time, Bruce DeLashmit of the Bellwether, the county’s administrative assistant, said there is no designation.
The coroner, DeLashmit said, “is not paid the same salary as the other elected officials because of some past board action, and all you have to do, all you can do, is decide how much do you want to pay the court – that’s the Board’s decision.”
Board member Glen “Whitey” Daniels asked whether the county can financially handle an increase, and DeLashmit said, “It would have to come from somewhere, but yes, we can.”
Daniels said, “I think what we’re doing with the coroner is unjust. He’s not being treated right – search your heart and you’ll see that.”
Board member Bryce Kistler asked Daniels his feelings on the previous coroner, Bruce Bowen.
“Do you think the last board treated the last coroner well?” Kistler asked.
“Do you think that 16 years he served he was treated well, did we give him a vehicle to drive around in?” Kistler said.
When Daniels said, “I don’t know,” Kistler said, “You were on the board then.
“For 20 years the coroner hasn’t been treated well,” Kistler said.
Daniels recommended the board vote on increasing the salary to $39,000.
Waggoner said board members spent nine hours going over the budget “and honestly, 31 (thousand), the county can do, 39 (thousand) without jeopardizing the future, why would you do it?
“Why would you jeopardize state county five years from now because of something that we can raise later,” Waggoner said.
“We’re looking at raising it $3,000 now. If in the future if we can afford it, then we can raise it again. But right now in 2020, 2021 we can’t do it,” she said.
Daniels questioned the county paying the animal control warden/administrator more than the coroner, and said some people have asked him about that.
Board member Merrell Collins, the board’s animal control subcommittee chairman, then entered the discussion, saying, “It’s not costing the county a dime more today than it was before. The only thing different is now you have somebody doing the job, and the salary is for the animal control warden and administrator.
“It’s a lot better deal than Fayette County’s ever, ever had and she’s working all the time, all the time, every day.
“It’s not a good comparison, for you to be arguing animal control with the forum. It just isn’t,” Collins said.
When the ordinance came up for a vote during the regular board meeting, Daniels made a motion to increase the coroner’s salary to $39,000.
However, that motion died for lack of a second.
A motion, with a second, to approve the increase to $31,000, with subsequent $1,000 increases, failed due to a tie vote of 6-6.
Prior to the vote, Kistler said, “These elected officials know what their salaries are going to be going into this. I’m not taking anything away from them.
“I would love to see every one of them get a raise, I would love to see all of the employees get one, but right now.
“It is believed … that funding is going to go down (with) what we’re going through.
“I just, personally, I don’t think it’s needed, an increase,” Kistler said.
Voting for the increase were Waggoner, Daniels, Jake Harris, Keith Cole, Glenn Gurtner and Darrell Schaal. Opposing it were Chairman Jeff Beckman, Collins, Pat Click, Kistler, Glenda Bartells and Joe Wills.
Board members Deb Warner and Dean Bernhardt were not present for the meeting.