The Curry County Board of Commissioners has asked county attorney Jerry Herbage if he can tweak the county’s Compensation Board to get a more objective group of people.
It’s not that the board is biased, emphasized Commissioner David Itzen. It’s because the Compensation Board is made up of members of the county’s Budget Committee, and the two have different goals.
The Budget Committee’s mission – particularly in the past few years – is to ensure the county is financially viable and responsible, lately having to make cuts to numerous departments. The Compensation Board, on the other hand, is designed to make sure the elected officials at the county are paid fairly when compared to their counterparts in the private sector.
Elected officials at the county level include the three commissioners, sheriff, assessor, clerk, surveyor and treasurer and district attorney.
By law, the Compensation Board must comprise three to five people who are knowledgeable about personnel and company management. Curry County’s board is made up of lay people of the budget committee.
“The key point of the board is objectivity,” said Commissioner Bill Waddle. “It puts a real burden on them. They’re immersed in the budget, they have to meet the demands of the budget, and objectivity, sometimes, has been a bit skewed.”
“They must have an awareness of what some folks in the community make in similar jobs,” said Commissioners George Rhodes. “That hasn’t been the case.”
The disparity can be wide, even among elected officials from other counties. For example, Curry County Commissioners make $60,000 a year – after they voluntarily took a 3 percent pay cut after a raise in 2011.
“They (the two boards) serve an entirely different purpose,” Itzen said.
“We think the problem is structural. You can’t be cutting on the Budget Committee and try to get raises for people (on the Compensation Board). They’ve got conflicting missions.”