Should the Lewis County Commissioners receive pay increases every year?
Whether you said “yes” or “no,” the argument usually distills down to the same sentiment: “In this economy?”
After citizen representative Rick Kuykendall argued last Thursday the only fair way to increase the electeds’ salaries is by using the same metric every year, no matter what, the salary commission — a citizens advisory group that sets the commissioner’s salaries and recommends salary rates for other county electeds — voted unanimously to grant a raise.
According to the group’s chair, Bob Berg, this amounts to about a 10.95% salary increase for the three commissioners, Sean Swope, Lindsey Pollock and Scott Brummer, of Districts 1, 2 and 3, respectively.
Commissioners make $90,886, meaning the raise would push their salaries to $100,838, not including benefits. If approved by the three, the raise would go into effect in June.
Kuykendall said his argument revolved around the increased cost of living, soaring inflation rates and that “If you pay these people peanuts, it's going to take a while, but all of a sudden you're going to have a hard time filling these positions anymore. Because, who the hell wants to be a county treasurer in the first place?”
Last year, the salary commission passed guidelines for the rates initially set in 2013, aligning adjustments with per-capita income change for Lewis County residents, or the differences in average resident income between evaluation periods.
At the time, salary commission member Eric Carlson said, “If we're going to experience pain then so should our elected officials. … We were wanting to send a message that (salaries) needed to stick to what the same pace of the average taxpayer was instead of outpacing it.”
But then, in a June 2022 meeting, Carlson motioned to not give the commissioners a raise at all. This passed, with the seven person group voting 4-3.
In August of 2021, the Board of County Commissioners rescinded the salary commission’s review of pay for the auditor, assessor, clerk, coroner, prosecuting attorney and treasurer. The commission’s resentment over that disregard became a tipping point in the decision not to grant the raise at all in the following year.