Douglas County supervisors could soon be getting an $1,800 increase in their salary to serve on the board.
After at least two decades without a salary increase for supervisors, the county's executive committee voted Thursday, Nov. 4, to increase the monthly payment for their service from $250 per month to $400 per month.
County board Chairman Mark Liebaert said he brought the issue up after struggling to recruit two new members to fill board vacancies. One seat was open for six months. Liebaert said he wasn’t sure if the board salary is part of the issue.
County Clerk Susan Sandvick said her search for changes in board compensation only revealed a 2013 approval for meeting stipends to increase by $10. Going back to 2002, she said she found nothing that would indicate when the salary supervisors receive last changed.
“So, it was prior to 2002 when your current salary was established,” Sandvick said.
Currently, supervisors receive $3,000 annually for their service on the county board and $35 per meeting to attend committee meetings on which they serve. Committee chairpersons receive $45 per meeting.
Only the county board chairman receives a higher salary, $15,000 annually. The committee took no action to increase the county board chairman’s salary.
“At $250 a month, that’s less than most of the towns pay for their supervisors,” Liebaert said. “Amnicon pays $300 for a supervisor.”
Summit only pays $250 per month, Supervisor Joe Moen said.
Supervisor Nick Baker made a motion to increase the county board’s salary to $400 per month, which was seconded by Supervisor Sam Pomush.
“What percentage of an increase is that?” Alan Jaques asked. “We all like raises, but that’s going to look wrong.”
The board would have a hard time explaining the size of the increase — 62.5% — when employees only got a 2% increase, Jacques said.
Baker said county employees have received regular increases in pay while the board’s salary hasn’t changed in decades. During his tenure on the board, which includes a gap after he moved out of a district he previously represented, Baker said he has never seen an increase in the compensation he receives, estimating a span of 29 years.
“If we want people to run for these positions, one of the ways is that they are fairly compensated,” Baker said.
Douglas County supervisors often run uncontested. Even in 2002, when the county increased its tax levy by 52%, only about one-third of the board members faced a challenge that year. With the county board shrinking by seven members in the year after redistricting, many of the competitive races involved incumbents facing off to hold onto a seat on the board.
“We should be doing what the city is,” Baker said. “We do as much work if not more.”
Rural supervisors regularly attend town meetings and the only compensation they receive for it is mileage, he added.
In 2018, the Superior City Council increased its salary to $4,896 per year with a provision that every April, after the election, that salary would increase by the same percentage approved for nonunion staff. In addition, councilors receive $1,938 annually for expenses with the provision that it increases annually just like compensation.
Liebaert said by increasing the salary, it may encourage more people to run.
“I don’t think $400 is too much to ask; I really don’t,” Supervisor Sue Hendrickson said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had this discussion. This is a new century.”
Jaques questioned if anyone would support a 2% increase over the next five or six years.
“If you’re going to give me an increase and you’re only going to give me $5, don’t even bother,” Liebaert said.
Jaques was the only member of the executive committee to vote against the measure.
The proposal will go to the full board for consideration Nov. 18. If approved, the salary increases would not go into effect until after the election in April 2022.