GOLD BEACH – The Elected Officials Compensation Board voted this week to recommend that Curry County elected officials’ salaries be frozen at the current rate for the fiscal year beginning July 1 and that their benefits be cut.
The proposal to be presented to the County Budget Committee calls for the elected officials paying half of the $1,049 that the county now pays toward their health insurance and that they pay the 6 percent of their salary toward PERS, their pension fund, the county now pays.
The county for at least the past 10 years has paid its portion of PERS, which varies according to the needs of the state retirement fund, and has also paid the 6 percent of salary that is assessed to individual employees.
Sam Scaffo of Port Orford, who suggested the plan, said it would cost the three county commissioners each $10,296 a year.
The compensation board is made up of the three lay members of the Budget Committee – Scaffo, John Spicer of Gold Beach and Tom Brand of Brookings. The three commissioners make up the rest of the Budget Committee.
The compensation board held two meetings and went through several proposals before settling on their recommendation. They felt that the elected officials should receive a reduction in pay because of the county’s economic crisis.
The County Budget Committee three weeks ago approved a draft budget that would allow county government to operate for the full fiscal year beginning July 1 by borrowing $700,000 from the road fund, taking $350,000 that had been set aside for vehicle replacement and including a large chunk of the county’s working capital, used to pay bills.
But county commissioners warned that, unless there’s another source of revenue for the county’s general fund coming within the year, the county would cease to function on July 1, 2013.
The Budget Committee will hold hearings to further work on the budget in the week beginning May 14.
Brand said that something had to be done to reflect the county or at some point it would be a disconnect.
He suggested that they hold the line – freeze compensation.
“I throw that out to get something going,” he said.
One way the county is trying to cut expenses is to get rid of current departments. Last summer, the county spun off its Home Health and Hospice to a private nonprofit agency, now called Coastal Home Health and Hospice.
There are plans to move the Animal Shelter into a private nonprofit agency, as well as spin off Health and Human Services either to another private agency or make them a stand alone nonprofit.
Spicer said that dropping the number of county employees and some departments, there is less work for the commissioners. He proposed making one commissioner a full-time employee, with the other two becoming part-time employees as some other small counties function.
He said that way, the three commissioners could work for what two commissioners are now paid.
“Cut by one-third and let them work it out,” Spicer said.
“I don’t think that’s workable,” Scaffo said. “In effect, you’re trying to change the form of commissioners by starving them. These people were all duly elected and expect they will be full-time.”
He said that if the form of government is changed, it should be by the commissioners themselves or by the voters.
“All we are doing is recommending,” Spicer said.
“We know they won’t accept it,” Brand said.
Scaffo said the board needed to give the commissioners something they could accept.
He then recommended the plan to freeze salaries, cut the county part of health by half and have the county not pay the employees’ portion of PERS.
And Scaffo said that if the benefit reduction was declared illegal, then the salaries should be reduced by an equivalent amount.
The board then voted 3-0 to accept that plan.
The three commissioners now receive a monthly salary of $5,064.08 or an annual salary of $60,769, the sheriff $5,772 a month or annual salary of $69,264, the assessor $4,780.50 or $57,366 annually, the clerk $4,731.08 monthly or $56,773 annually and the county treasurer $4,687.33 or $56,248 annually. In addition, they receive $1,045 a month toward health insurance. Commissioners’ PERS now paid by the county is $303.04. The sheriff has PERS of $346 paid, assessor $286, clerk $284 and treasurer $281.
The county surveyor now works part-time at $45 an hour. He doesn’t work enough hours to receive health benefits.