County raises run the gamut

Thursday, February 1, 2018

PLYMOUTH CO. — A recommendation made by the Plymouth County Compensation Board last month was given its final approval by the Plymouth County Board of Supervisors at Tuesday’s (January 16) meeting.

It was during the board’s second round of budget discussions, that a motion was made by Supervisor Craig Anderson and seconded by Supervisor Mark Loutsch to approve the county employees wages for fiscal year 2018-19.

The unanimous vote by the board means a 2 percent increase for Sheriff Mike Van Otterloo and the board of supervisors, a 4 percent increase for the remaining elected officials — County Attorney Darin Raymond, Auditor Stacey Feldman, Recorder Jolynn Goodchild and Treasurer Shelly Sitzmann.

Salaries for the elected officials for fiscal year 2017-18 are:

County Attorney: $111,007.44

Sheriff: $93,126.72

Auditor, Recorder and Treasurer: $66,170.80

Board of Supervisors: $32,853.12.

The remaining non-bargaining employees will receive a 3 percent raise.

“There was a time when we were down to 18 days of reserves and at that time we were the ninth lowest general basic levy in the state,” said Plymouth County Board of Supervisors Chairman Don Kass. “Thanks to the elected officials working as a team, we are now the fifth lowest general basic levy in the state and have 180 days of reserves. This is due to sound management, cooperation and seeking out efficiencies within the various departments. This is why we felt the 4 percent raises were appropriate.

“In addition, when compared to the pay scale in the private sector locally and with other governmental bodies, such as the City of Le Mars, our department heads are still on the low end of the pay scale,” he added.

In other budget discussions, the board also agreed to increase the five county libraries budget to $95,000. The new dollar figure is an increase over the $90,000 the Plymouth County Library Coalition requested for the new budget year.

“Had the anomaly with the Le Mars library had not occurred we would probably be at more than $95,000 any way. So we’re attempting to make up a little bit for lost time and to fulfill our commitment to give more resources to our valuable county libraries,” Kass said.

According to the coalition agreement, which was created by the participating libraries of Akron, Kingsley, Le Mars, Merrill and Remsen, in the 1970’s, 50 percent of the total county allocation is split amongst the five libraries. The remainder is split based on rural circulation numbers provided by each library.

For the 2017-18 fiscal year, the board of supervisors had allocated $85,000 which was divided amongst Akron, Kingsley, Merrill and Remsen. The Le Mars Public Library had elected to opt out of the coalition formula each year since 2014, stating the amount of funding they were receiving was not an adequate amount.

It was in September of 2017 when the Le Mars Library Board of Trustees voted on a 6-0 vote, with one member absent, to rejoin the other four county libraries in seeking county funding for the new fiscal year.

In other action, the board also approved setting the Plymouth County Communication Center per capita charge to $3.75 per city.

“Considering that the communications center is a 24 hours a day and seven days a week operation no matter what the conditions are, it has to be considered how the replacement cost for equipment and technology within that operation continues to get more expensive,” Kass said. “This makes it necessary for the 50 cents per person increase to maintain our operations.”

It was at the Jan. 9 board of supervisors meeting, when Van Otterloo proposed a $.50 per capita assessment increase to the cities in the county.

“I bring this forward every budget year and I think that the cities are getting a bargain for what we provide for them,” Van Otterloo told the board last week.

Currently the cities are assessed $3.25 per capita, which generates $54,000 annually for the communications center.

With the board’s action at Tuesday’s meeting, the per capita increase will result in boosting the revenue to $62,000 annually.

Based on the $.50 increase, per person per town by population, Communications Supervisor Kirk Hatting said the following towns would see an increase of: Akron $743; Brunsville $75.50; Craig $44.50; Hinton $464; Kingsley $705.50; Le Mars $4,913; Merrill $377.50; Oyens $51.50; Remsen $831.50; Struble $39; and Westfield $66.

The last time an increase was assessed was around six years ago.

The increase will take effect on July 1, 2018.

Approval was also given for Van Otterloo to hire an additional full-time cook at the law enforcement center.