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Douglas County Board increases its pay

County employees questioned the fairness of spending $38,934 more on board salaries when merit rewards for staff have been taken away.

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Government Center in Superior, Wisconsin. Jed Carlson / 2019 file / Superior Telegram
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When supervisors on the Douglas County Board take office in April, they’ll receive 62.5% more pay, $150 more a month.

The county board split 14-7 on Thursday, Nov. 18, in favor of increasing the board’s monthly compensation from $250 to $400 a month, after a motion to amend it to a lesser amount failed in a 10-11 vote.

Supervisors Joe Moen, Steve Long, Mary Lou Bergman, Marquise Slay, Peter Clark, Ron Leino, Alan Jaques, Richard Staupe, Keith Allen and Pat Ryan voted in favor of the amendment that would have raised supervisors' pay by $50 per month. The motion failed when Supervisors Jim Borgeson, Sam Pomush, Wendy Bong, Nick Baker, Charlie Glazman, Michael Raunio, Kelly Peterson, Rosemary Lear, Sue Hendrickson, Scott Luostari and Mark Liebaert voted against it.

Bergman, Slay, Leino, Jaques, Allen, Ryan and Moen voted against the overall increase.

Finance director Candy Holm-Anderson said the cost for the pay increases for the 20 members of the board who will see the increase is $38,934 including FICA and workman’s compensation. The chairman’s salary, $15,000 per year, won’t change.

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PREVIOUSLY: Douglas County Board could get $1,800 raise

Liebaert, who chairs the board, said excess in his budget will cover the cost of the increases; he anticipates turning about $40,000 back to the county from his budget this year.

"We have a very good board here," he said. "We work. We make hard decisions. I'm proud of you guys. I want to make sure we're respecting your time. I know how much time I spend away from my other job … and I know you guys are doing the same thing. I want to show a little respect for that."

Jaques said he was contacted by county employees who said the raise was too much, and urged board members to vote it down or reduce the size of the increase.

County employees aren’t against the increase, but they are wondering where the fairness is after merit rewards for exemplary service have been absent in recent years.

“It’s kind of a smack in the face to the employees,” said Jonathan Brostowitz, a foreman in the Douglas County Highway Department. He said employees were promised that if they did an outstanding job, they would receive merit pay — either extra time off or pay — for exceeding expectation, which has been stripped away because there was no money for it.

“Yet the county board goes and spends $38,000 for a raise for themselves,” Brostowitz said, adding that the county is struggling to find people to fill jobs, and people are leaving for jobs that pay better. "I'm not saying that they don't deserve it; don't get me wrong … but last year you told us there was no money to give us anything. All of a sudden, this year, they can vote themselves a raise. When can we vote ourselves a raise?"

Brostowitz wasn't the only county employee to express support for the raise but displeasure over merit rewards.

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"Again, a huge increase like this, walking around holding our head up — I have a hard time doing it personally," Jaques said.

"This isn't a huge increase,” Baker said. “You're going to get 75 bucks added to each check. That's all you're talking about. We're not talking a tremendous fortune, and you're going to be taxed on it so it will be even less."

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