County employees will get pay increase

Published 9:09 am Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Despite vote after vote from one commissioner for the opposite, a majority of the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday for salary adjustments in 2009 for the county’s elected officials and nonunion employees.

This means, Freeborn County Attorney Craig Nelson will see an increase in salary from $90,000 in 2008 to $92,500 in 2009; Freeborn County Recorder Kelly Callahan will see an increase in salary from $50,500 to $54,000; Freeborn County Auditor-Treasurer Dennis Distad will see an increase from $75,500 to $77,500; and Freeborn County Sheriff Mark Harig will see an increase from $80,000 to $82,500.

Nonunion employees will see a 2.5 percent salary adjustment.

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The only 2009 salaries the board voted not to increase were their own. This vote was unanimous.

“We’re in a recession, headed for a depression,” District 2 Commissioner Dan Belshan said, as the board began to go through each position, one by one. “With projected county budget shortfalls it is our job to make the hard decisions to be fiscally responsible. We can’t keep raising taxes to fund spending beyond our means in order to increase wages; therefore, I propose a freeze on salaries and hiring.”

As each elected position came to the board, Belshan voted against an increase, while commissioners Mark Behrends, Jim Nelson and Christopher Shoff voted in favor of one. The same was true for the salary adjustments for nonunion employees.

First District Commissioner Glen Mathiason was not in attendance.

2008 2009

Attorney $90,00 $92,500

Recorder $50,500 $54,000

Auditor-Treasurer $75,500 $77,500

Sheriff $80,000 $82,500

Commissioners $22,450 $22,450

Belshan asked about giving a fixed amount for all the nonunion employees, if anything, instead of a percent increase.

Freeborn County Administrator John Kluever said to do something like this would require more advance notice.

The commissioners also voted 3-1 to increase the hourly pay rate of the county ditch inspector from $18 an hour to $20.

Belshan pointed out that this position had gone from $16 to $18 in 2008, and now it was going up another $2 an hour. That equals a 25 percent increase in that salary during the last two years, he said.

That is an improper increase, and it should have been more gradual, he said.

The board also voted 3-1 to accept an agreement with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees for a 2.5 percent increase for the employees under this union.

The votes came after several months of talks about the county budget and salaries. In earlier workshops, similar views were expressed.

The 2009 budget will be voted on at the next board meeting.

In other action, the commissioners:

Unanimously approved the 2009 drainage system assessments.

Unanimously approved a grant agreement with the Minnesota Department of Health related to childhood immunization.

Specifically, the grant is between the state Department of Health and the Freeborn County Public Health for the perinatal Hepatitis B and immunization practices improvement initiatives for Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, 2009.

This agreement is the same as previous agreements with the state Department of Health regarding these initiatives.

Voted 3-1 to re-appoint Lindsey C. Thomas M.D. as the county’s medical examiner from Jan. 1, 2009 through Dec. 31, 2010.

In an earlier motion, Belshan asked to table the item until Dec. 16 so that another letter could be sent out to the local community to see if a local doctor wanted to contract for the position.

Heard a presentation by Albert Lea Senior Center Director Paula Juveland.

Juveland asked the commissioners for help in light of the fact that funds have been cut to them from the city of Albert Lea.

Commissioners tabled voting on the matter.