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Kandiyohi Co. Board: No to salary increase for second year

WILLMAR -- For the second year in a row, the Kandiyohi County Commissioners will not be getting a pay increase.

On a unanimous vote Tuesday, members of the Board of Commissioners agreed that their 2010 salary will stay at the 2008 level of $28,140 a year, plus a $70 per diem for attending meetings.

The 2010 budget had included a 1.5 percent increase in the commissioners' pay, which is comparable to what employees will be receiving.

County Administrator Larry Kleindl had two resolutions in hand for the commissioners to consider -- one for a 1.5 percent increase and another for a zero percent increase.

"I would prefer zero percent again this year," said Commissioner Harlan Madsen.

The move sends a message that the commissioners appreciate the sacrifices county employees are making to help balance the county budget, said Commissioner Dean Shuck in a later interview.

It would "really look poor" if the commissioners gave themselves a raise while asking employees to take a cut, Shuck said.

Besides agreeing to reopen their contract and making concessions to cut their cost-of-living increase in half to 1.5 percent, most county employees also took a one-day unpaid furlough this year and will take two days off without pay next year.

County dispatchers are taking three unpaid days off in exchange for keeping their 3 percent cost-of-living raise.

There have been layoffs in most departments.

By forfeiting a 1.5 percent salary increase, commissioners will each give up about $420, said Commissioner Richard Larson. That's somewhat comparable to what employees are forfeiting by taking unpaid furloughs, he said.

When the economy does turn around, the commissioners said they expect employee unions will ask that cuts being made now be restored with higher wages.

Likewise, Larson said the commissioners will also increase their salary when county finances are better. When the commissioners' salary does eventually take a jump, Larson said they will no doubt "catch some flack" for that.

While commissioners "aren't in it for the money," Shuck said the salary will have to increase someday or no one will run for the office.

The year-long budget process that has weighed heavy on the board was finalized with the certification of the 2010 budget, including a net levy of $25,939,905.

No changes were made in the budget or levy since it received preliminary approval in September. Kleindl said that, under state law, if the governor decides to unallot funds again in 2010, the county could revise the budget. Unallotment is the governor's power to cut state expenditures to prevent a deficit.

In other action:

? The commissioners authorized the final payment for construction of the $3,050,528 16-bed hospital constructed to provide acute mental health care. The state is making lease payments to the county to cover bond payments.

? MinnWest Technology Campus has agreed to enter into a purchase agreement to purchase two buildings from the county on the former regional treatment center campus. The closing date is Jan. 4.

? The commissioners were informed that the new 800-megahertz emergency radio system was officially switched on Tuesday morning. The project had been in the works since 2007.

? Starting Jan. 1, it will cost $15 to get booked into the Kandiyohi County Jail. The $5 increase was needed to reflect the actual cost incurred by the county. If the cost can be substantiated, the fee will increase to $20 in 2011.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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