A five percent raise for all elected county officials was among the results of the Tillamook County Board of Commissioners approval of a $73 million operating budget for the new fiscal year.
In a Tillamook County Budget Committee Compensation Board meeting on May 10 it was brought up that the County Commissioners as well as every elected official and elected department heads are due for a raise in paid wages.
The decision spans much further back, to the last time their wages were up for increase, at that time the board – and the commissioners themselves – elected to decline a wage increase. This time around the Compensation Board considered a few other factors before making their decision.
“There comes a point where if you don’t enact any sort of wage increases in a system like ours you have what they call ‘compression,’” Budget Committee Chair Doug Olson said. “Tillamook County operates on a Statute system instead of a ‘Home-Rule’ county, we struggled with this for quite a while but when it came down to it the elected officials haven’t had an increase in three years and as it stands there are department heads who make more per year due to matrix step-increases.”
Unlike many Tillamook County employees, the elected officials’ wage isn’t reliant upon a step-increase system like other agencies and sectors. Instead their wages are reliant upon the Compensation Board, which bases their information off of a Staff Report as well as a variety of other materials to make their decisions. From there the specific decision is voted upon – and in this case it was approved.
On June 21, the county moved to adopt the entire budget, which included the increases in question.
“We have turned down minor increases in the past,” Olson said, “But we always need to be sensitive because all of these salaries are public. It’s never an easy thing and when these kinds of decisions roll around we are all on the line.”
Tillamook County Commissioner Bill Baertlein said this decision was the result of comparing and contrasting what other counties were doing compared to Tillamook County.
“It was a tough decision but it was for all elected officials,” Baertlein said. “They don’t get raises unless it’s budgeted and approved, they don’t get step-increases like others.”
Currently the commissioners make approximately $78,000 per year, the raise would change that number to just under $82,000.
The new increase applies to all elected officials and elected department heads throughout Tillamook County.
During a heated Budget Committee Compensation Board meeting on May 10, members of the county presented their arguments to the Board regarding a lack of pay increases spanning back as far as 2014. Most came out for the increase, as many said they were growing unhappy with stagnant wages within the county.
“Many county employees get step-increases, I’m not one of them,” Tillamook County Clerk Tassi O’Neil said. “It’s hard to think about things like retirement after years of service when the pay rates are based on data that is at this point years old.”
O’Neil was referring to a number of positions within the county, including hers, that are not eligible for step-increases, instead, like the County Commissioners, Sheriff, Treasurer, among others, they rely on the Budget Committee passing the annual operating budget which has their wages built in. Since 2014 there have been no step increases or wage increases for any county personnel, and the recent decision to raise the wages for the elected officials caught some off guard.
Sheriff weighs in
Tillamook County Sheriff Andy Long is, according to data from other counties in Oregon, operating at 14 percent under what his constituents make elsewhere and that negotiation with the union is something he would like to see more of.
“I would like the budget committee to wait until more negotiations by the union can be figured out,” Long said. “I would prefer that we have two meetings at the end of June in order to come to a better understanding.”
When asked by County Commissioner Tim Josi whether or not Long felt the union was simply trying to stall negotiations he replied by doubling down on his request for more negotiations.
Long said the negotiations weren’t even complete yet despite the county adopting the budget and that currently they are going through a number of different contracts which takes longer to complete due to changes in FMLA and overtime laws.
“I get the concept of giving raises to elected officials,” Long said. “But this, I feel, goes in the opposite direction of progress, not having the ability to incentivize my staff will create its own compression problem over time.”
Long said the rates for everyone else will be figured out in the coming years so there is promise on the horizon.
“I understand why they’re doing it,” Long said. “I just don’t agree with it. The timing is bad and I think they could have delayed it.”