Committee analyzes 2 percent raise for county’s elected officials

Originally published in the 6/8/18 print edition of Yellowstone County News.

BILLINGS — County officials held the first of what is usually two meetings to determine salary increases for the county’s elected officials, on Tuesday. While no action was taken, the discussion of the Elected Officials’ Compensation Committee leaned toward increasing the base salary of elected officials by 2 percent.

The committee, headed by the County Attorney Scott Twito, is comprised of the county commissioners, the sheriff, clerk and recorder and two appointed citizen representatives. The committee makes recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners for their consideration.

A number of questions were raised about the impacts of salary increases, answers for which Finance Director Kevan Bryan was asked to provide, at the next meeting, which will be at 10:15 a.m. July 3. That meeting will be one of the first to be held in the county commissioners’ new offices in the Stillwater Building, across the street from the County Courthouse.

Of primary concern by the committee members is knowing the level of increase below which the sheriff’s deputies contract would be re-opened. The pay for deputies is tied to the sheriff’s pay raise, which is, of course, included in the committee’s recommendation.

County Commissioner Robyn Driscoll said she would support whatever was the lowest increase that would not trigger the opening of the union’s contract. Because of the uncertainty of what that is, she said she was reluctant to second a motion by Commissioner John Ostlund to increase the salaries by 2 percent. Commissioner Denis Pitman, upon being asked by citizen representative Oscar Heinrich, said that he agreed with Driscoll. (Billie Ruff, the other citizen representative, was absent.)

Ostlund said that he was not inclined to raise salaries much higher because “the budget has some strain on it.”

Last year commissioners raised salaries 2 percent, and the year before that, 3 percent.

Bryan reinforced Ostlund’s concerns about the budget.

The CPI (cost of living increase) remains at 2.1 percent this year, just as it has been the last two years, said Bryan.

Data provided by Bryan to committee members indicated that a 2 percent increase on the base would result in an overall average increase for elected officials of 5.45 percent, after calculations for longevity are included.

The total cost of compensation for elected officials to the county’s budget, with a 2 percent increase, would be $707,077.74.

County elected officials’ base salary is $69,721.34. A 2 percent increase would move it upward to $71,115.77. The current longevity maximum is $22,596.40. (Elected officials earn longevity increases of $4,519.28 per year up to five years.)

It was noted that the County Commissioners, who also set wages for non-union employees, recommended a few days ago that Bryan use a 2.75 percent increase for those employees as a … Read the full story here

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