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Swift County officials give themselves a bump in pay

BENSON -- The Swift County Commissioners approved a 3.5 levy increase for 2011 and approved salary increases for themselves and most of the county's employees.

Following the truth-in-taxation hearing Tuesday night, the commissioners ap-proved the $8.2 million levy.

The budget was also approved with expenditures set at $17.4 million, which is a 10.85 percent increase.

Most of the budget increase is in the road and bridge fund. That budget increased $1.6 million because of planned projects to replace culverts and bridges next year, said County Auditor Byron Giese.

Following a closed meeting, the County Board of Commissioners approved three-year contracts for the union and non-union employees in the human services, courts and highway and environmental services departments.

The county has not settled with the 20-member law enforcement department yet.

The package approved Tuesday includes a 2 percent pay increase next year, a 1½ percent increase in 2012 and a 1 percent increase in 2013.

The county will also increase life insurance and disability insurance benefits.

Before setting their own salary for 2010, Giese gave a report that shows Swift County Commissioners make considerably less than their colleagues in neighboring counties.

Even some counties with a smaller population than Swift County's population of 11,956 earn a higher annual salary and per diem.

Since 2008 -- the last time the Swift County Commissioners gave themselves a pay raise -- the annual salary has been $16,905 with a $60 per diem, which is a fee commissioners can collect for attending county-related meetings.

By contrast, Kandiyohi County Commissioners earn $28,140 a year and have a $70 per diem. The population of Kandiyohi County is 41,763.

Giese looked at six counties -- Pope, Chippewa, Yellow Medicine, Cottonwood, Lake and Jackson counties -- that are similar in size to Swift County. The average salary for those commissioners was $18,343 -- about $1,400 more than in Swift County.

The average per diem in those counties was $81, compared to $60 in Swift.

The commissioners voted 4-1 to increase their salary 4 percent next year to $17,588. The per diem was increased to $70.

They also discussed increasing their salary another 2½ percent in 2012 and an additional 2 percent in 2013.

That schedule could change before the action is taken, said Giese, adding that the commissioners were "uncomfortable" increasing their pay but felt it was needed.

Commissioner Joe Fox voted against the increase, saying it should be lower.

Commissioners Dick Hanson, Gary Hendrickx, Doug Anderson and Pete Peterson voted yes.


Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750