The Ellis County Commission moved around money in the county’s 2020 budget Monday night to absorb pay raises for five of the county’s elected officials, a department head and a skilled employee.
Following on discussions that began in 2019, including comparing pay rates in other Kansas counties, the raises start with the Jan. 12 pay period.
To absorb the pay raises without increasing the 2020 budget, eight department budgets were increased, and three others were decreased to offset the cost, according to information from Darin Myers, interim county administrator.
The county commissioners made the adjustments Monday evening during their regular meeting at the Ellis County Administrative Center, 718 Main.
Also, the commission won’t renew the county’s membership in a northwest Kansas organization that assists cities and counties with community improvement projects.
“I think it’s really important for the public to understand that by giving these salary increases we’ve done that at the expense of other budgets,” said Commissioner Butch Schlyer. “We didn’t add money, we had to go find money … especially as we do not renew that membership.”
Commission Chair Dean Haselhorst noted his agreement, as did Commissioner Dustin Roths.
“I agree with you Butch on that,” Roths said. “We really had to get creative to figure out where these were and we had to cut in order to do these pay raises and to do what’s fair for our employees.”
With the annual raises, the pure salary cost for elected officials will go up in 2020 by $12,377 compared to July 2019, according to the information.
With benefits included, the increase will be $14,534 more in 2020.
The three county commissioners did not take a pay raise, so their salaries each remain $18,791 annually.
New and current salaries for the other elected officials are: County Attorney Tom Drees, to $90,000 from $84,032; County Clerk Donna Maskus, to $63,000 from $62,732, with an election stipend of $8,000; Register of Deeds Rebecca Herzog, to $56,700 from $54,683; County Treasurer Lisa Schlegel, to $62,500 from $59,342; and Sheriff Ed Harbin, to $85,000 from $84,032.
The four-year terms of Drees, Maskus, Schlegel, Herzog and Harbin all expire in January 2021. Maskus and Harbin have said they will retire, while Drees has said he won’t run for re-election.
Public Works Director Bill Ring’s annual salary went to $90,750 from $77,293. Building and Grounds Lead Facilities Maintenance Technician Greg Erbert went to $50,939 from $40,539.
The commissioners also took $12,000 from the county’s budget stabilization account to pay for raises for the five elected officials.
As a result of the changes, the county’s membership in the Northwest Kansas Planning and Development Commission, based in Hill City, doesn’t renew for 2020.
“The commission has directed me to reduce the amount in the commission budget by $22,500 that we had budgeted for the Northwest Kansas Planning and Development Commission to be reallocated for these pay adjustments,” Myers explained during the meeting.
Myers said there’s $152,420 in the budget for cost of living pay raises for the remaining county employees if the commission decides at some time during the year to give raises to them in 2020. County employees last saw a pay increase mid-year in 2019.
Also Monday, the commission approved a front desk clerk in the county Health Department be bumped up from a half-time position to full time, with $14,000 removed from the administrator’s budget to pay for that, Myers said.
In other action at the meeting:
— The Kansas Department of Transportation will pay more in 2020 for the county’s Noxious Weed Department to maintain roadside ditches in the county.
The commissioners approved to raise the rate for labor by $4 an hour to $36 an hour, the first increase since 2017. Equipment rates will stay at $36 an hour for the roadside spray truck and $32 an hour for the three-quarter-ton spray truck.
In 2019, KDOT paid the county $6,215 for treatment of noxious weeds. Similar revenue is expected in 2020, according to Gary Haas, noxious weed control supervisor.
— The commissioners agreed to sell surplus equipment through government auction on Purple Wave. Items for sale are outdoor warning sirens, two International fire trucks, a tire machine and four backhoe tires, six hydraulic cylinders and a hydraulic pump, and office equipment including desks, partitions, cabinets, and a pallet of ice prevention.
The auction starts around Jan. 25 and ends Feb. 25.
— The commissioners agreed to schedule town hall meetings to explain details of a proposed countywide sales tax, a question registered voters will vote on this spring. It was decided to hold three town hall meetings in Hays, two each in Victoria and Ellis, and one in Schoenchen. The town halls will start in late February and run through early March, they decided.