Raises approved for county officials
Salaries were set for all four elected county officials and county commissioners, with increases approved for the Douglas County attorney, sheriff and auditor/treasurer.
The salary increases and one decrease were approved at a Douglas County Board budget meeting Aug. 21 for three of the four elected officials. The auditor/treasurer's salary was approved at an earlier budget meeting.
There was no pay increase in the commissioners' salary or their per diems this year. Commissioner Jim Stratton said the commissioners received plenty of flack last year for giving themselves raises, and that this year there wouldn't be any.
Without hesitation, Stratton quickly made a motion to not increase the commissioners' yearly salary, which was set at $29,000 for 2018. After a unanimous vote, it will remain at that amount for 2019.
As part of Stratton's motion, the commissioners' per diems will not change. In 2018, the rate went from $75 per day to $100. It will remain at $100 for 2019. Per diems are paid out for committee meetings that commissioners attend.
A motion by Stratton that was seconded by Commissioner Charlie Meyer would have increased county attorney Chad Larson's salary to $116,000. That was $4,000 less than what Larson requested.
However, Commissioner Keith Englund, who said that Larson has not been "hoggish" in his pay increase requests in the past, felt the attorney's salary should be $120,000. It was mentioned that Alomere Health pays a portion of his salary and so the hospital could be asked to pay a higher amount. Currently, Alomere pays $23,000 for Larson's services.
Englund's motion was to amend the initial motion and increase Larson's salary to $120,000 as long as the hospital board approves an increase in what it pays. That motion was approved.
Here's a look at the annual salaries for the four elected officials:
• Attorney Chad Larson's increase is roughly 13 percent. He made $106,000 this year, $103,400 in 2017, $98,500 in 2016 and $95,595 in 2015.
• Auditor/Treasurer Char Rosenow's increase for 2019 is 5 percent to $108,900. She is making $103,940 this year, $97,000 last year, $91,875 in 2016 and $87,500 in 2015.
• Recorder — A new recorder will be elected this November to replace Dawn Crouse, who is retiring at the end of the year. Crouse is due to make $73,000 this year, and she made $71,000 last year, $68,620 in 2016 and $65,945 in 2015. The salary approved by commissioners for 2019 is $60,000, or roughly an 18 percent decrease from what Crouse was making.
• Sheriff Troy Wolbersen's raise for 2019 is roughly 4 percent, to $120,000, after being paid $115,000 in 2018 ($10,000 of that was for being the county's emergency management director), $102,000 in 2017, $98,000 in 2016 and $93,000 in 2015.
Other budget items
In addition to salary increases, the commissioners approved several other budget requests, including allocations of:
• $8,000 to West Central Initiative, the same amount that has been requested and approved for several years.
• $135,602 to the Viking Library System. This is a 3 percent increase over last year's amount.
• $258,834 to the Douglas County Soil and Water Conservation, with $12,503 of that amount coming from a state water grant.
• $12,000 to the Douglas County Historical Society, a $3,000 increase from last year. The 2016 amount was $7,000 and in 2015, it was $4,500.
• $1,000 to the Alexandria Area Chamber of Commerce, directed for use for the Leadership Alexandria program. This was a first-time allocation for the Chamber.
• A 2 percent cost-of-living increase for non-represented employees, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2019. This is in line with increases for union groups, according to Douglas County Coordinator Heather Schlagen.