County salary boost is likely for employees

    With the end of the year quickly approaching for county government, once again it is budget time and the Adams County Council is spending Tuesday, today, and Thursday if needed, reviewing budget proposals.
    With all the talk of budget cutbacks floating around lately, county employees may be surprised to learn the council has approved a one percent pay increase for all county employees.
    While the proposed increase is not yet official, this is a good sign for county employees who, like many others, have suffered due to the economic climate over the last few years.
    After much discussion, and after meeting with the Adams County Commissioners later Tuesday afternoon, council members voted to exclude themselves from the pay raise, as did the commissioners.
    So here's where things may get a little confusing, as the question of the one percent pay increase came at the end of a lengthy discussion regarding a pay stipend for the commissioners.
    Commissioners originally met with council to discuss whether or not they should be compensated for being on the drainage board, which meets approximately three times a month. The commissioners pointed out that in previous years they had received a stipend of $55 per meeting. However during the 2012 budget meetings, the council decided to end the payment.
    While some members of the council felt maybe the drainage board should receive a stipend, others felt that the commissioners are expected to be members of various boards and therefore are already compensated with the salary they receive as commissioners.
    "As council members, commissioners, part of our job is being on other boards, and our pay should include being on other boards, that was the intent," said council President Randy Colclasure. "We weren't trying to single anyone out."
    The commissioners pointed out that with 122 drainage systems in what is primarily an agricultural county, they spend quite a bit of time dealing with issues outside of meetings.
    "A lot of farmers are aware that Kim [Fruechte] and I are commissioners and they know we're agriculturally minded," said Doug Bauman. "We get a lot of calls, and I get several people driving in my lane wanting to go out and look at this problem ... I think it's more laborious than perhaps some of the council members realize."
    Auditor Bill Borne said there are some boards that are state mandated to receive payment, but the drainage board is not one of them.
    "If it's mandated to pay a stipend, and I was on the soil conservation board, I declined any pay," said Kim Fruechte. "I hate to say it, but a lot of the other members looked at me like I was the stupidest thing out there . . .  I told them that was a way for me to give back to my community. I guess your big decision is how much is giving back, and how much is paying for some knowledge and skill to serve on those boards."
    Councilman Dennis Bluhm said that as elected officials he felt they have a certain responsibility to be active in various boards and committees without receiving more money. Bluhm said he sits on the health department board, but acknowledges that he is there voluntarily while the commissioners are mandated to be on the drainage board.
    When asked by councilman Eric Orr how often the health board met, Bluhm said six times a year. Orr then asked Bluhm if he would feel differently if the health board met three times a month as the drainage board does.
    "No. I wouldn't say that I'd be there every time, but since I wasn't being compensated I wouldn't feel guilty for not being there," said Bluhm.
    After continuing the debate for nearly an hour, in the end the council decided to table the issue until Wednesday to allow members more time to think about the possible stipend.