SHELTON — Director of Support Services Frank Pinter told the Mason County commissioners that their salaries would have to be reduced under his proposed salary adjustments for elected county officials.
Pinter explained the reduction would be necessary because the commissioners’ salaries are higher than the average Washington counties of similar size.
The commissioners tabled discussion until a future briefing session.
The proposed 2017 salary for a county commissioner runs in the range of $81,500. The sheriff’s salary is projected to be $99,199 in 2017. The county assessor, auditor, clerk, coroner and treasurer salaries are projected to be at $76,493 in 2017.
Pinter said because of a small number of counties in the comparable-size group, averaging is a better indicator than using the "median" salary. He said median comparisons are typically done with much larger groups.
Pinter said the current comparison found elected official's salaries were 4.2 percent lower and the sheriff's salary was 12.8 percent lower than counties of comparable size.
Pinter said the reason for the reduction in the salary of the commissioners was the result of a requirement to pay elected officials 95 percent of the county commissioner’s salary, which is higher than the average of comparable counties.
Commissioner Terri Jeffreys said she was confused about why Pinter had included the commissioner's salaries.
Commissioner Randy Neatherlin asked to table the discussion and decision another week because the issue of commissioner's salaries had not been included before.
Elected officials in attendance questioned the commissioners as to why the "hired" department heads were compensated much higher than the elected officials.
Elected officials said they felt they carried more responsibility than the department heads, and they were looking for "fairness" when determining all salaries.
Jeffreys said the elected officials had a "choice" of running for the office and they have to be a resident. Department heads had to be recruited and were more "mobile" than the elected official who had to be a resident and typically "want" to serve their community.
Neatherlin said there are definite differences in education or experience to become a department head. To get elected all that is required is being old enough at 18. The exception is the level of educate for a judge or prosecutor.
If an elected official resigns, the replacement steps in and gets the same rate of pay regardless of education or experience.
Jeffreys said the current review is for elected officials’ salaries.
Department heads and other county employee salaries are not being reviewed, she said.
Once the elected officials’ salaries are aligned to 95 percent of the county commissioners, whose salaries will be pegged to the "average" of the comparable counties, the process will be the same each year, Pinter said. The topic was tabled once again.