Jackson County Commissioner Colleen Roberts says she’ll begin accepting her full salary if re-elected.
Since taking office in 2015, Roberts has voluntarily taken a reduced salary of $68,432. She objected to a large pay raise in 2008 that boosted commissioner salaries from that amount.
Commissioner Rick Dyer, who has taken the full salary since he took office in 2015, plans to continue if he’s re-elected.
After cost-of-living and annual merit raises take effect, the current authorized salary of $106,891 for Dyer and Roberts will rise to $115,232 in January 2019 if they are re-elected, according to county salary data.
The two Republicans face Democratic challengers in November.
A newly elected commissioner would start at $94,806, according to salary data.
Roberts said she has been fulfilling her election pledge to take a reduced salary during her first four years in office. But she said taking the reduced amount hasn’t had the impact she intended.
“What I’ve seen in budget meetings is the money I haven’t been taking gets filtered back to the (county) departments. There’s no real tax advantage to the taxpayers,” she said.
Roberts, who sits on an advisory board for The Salvation Army, said she believes she can make better use of the extra salary dollars by making donations to charity.
She said the authorized salary for commissioners is exorbitant, and even the reduced salary she accepts is plentiful.
“I was honored to serve the four years as I said I would,” Roberts said. “I was blessed with the money I was paid. It is a significant amount. We’ll see if I’m here next year. I hope to get re-elected. That’s why I’m running.”
Retired physician and Willow-Witt Ranch co-owner Lanita Witt is challenging Roberts, the owner of Sensational Sweets bakery.
If elected, Witt said she would accept the full salary, but keep $60,000 to meet her needs and direct the rest toward community causes.
“I would put the rest back into the community,” she said.
Witt said the county should eventually increase the number of commissioners from three to five, then pay those five $60,000 each.
She also would like to see the positions become nonpartisan.
Dyer, the owner of Northwest Energy Solutions, is being challenged by Amy Thuren, executive director of The Valley School of Southern Oregon.
Dyer said he plans to continue accepting the full salary with merit and cost-of-living raises recommended this week by the Elected Officials Salary Review Committee, which is made up of citizen Budget Committee members Dick Rudisile, April Sevcik and Craig Morris.
“I plan to continue to adhere to the recommendations of the salary committee,” Dyer said. “The methodology is sound.”
The salaries of elected officials in Jackson County are based in part on salaries in the public and private sector for comparable workers who manage a similar number of employees and similarly sized budgets.
Thuren, Dyer’s competitor, said if elected she would also accept the full salary.
“I believe in equal pay for equal work. Elected officials’ salaries should reflect that,” she said.
The 2.65 percent cost-of-living raises kick in this July, while the merit raises take effect in January 2019.
Commissioner Bob Strosser, who took office in 2017 and is not up for re-election, said he plans to continue taking a reduced $68,432 salary and doubts he will take the cost-of-living raise.
“I think I’ll continue on the path I’m on,” he said. “I’m thrilled to be given the privilege of doing this job.”
Strosser, a retired police officer and Realtor, said working as a commissioner is a form of public service for him.
According to salary data from several other counties, Jackson County’s commissioners are paid more than average — whether they are new to the office or have received several years of merit and cost-of-living raises.
The average annual commissioner salary in Clackamas, Deschutes, Lane, Linn and Marion counties is $91,625, according to a January 2018 elected officials salary survey done by Jackson County.
With merit and cost-of-living raises, Jackson County Sheriff Nathan Sickler’s salary will rise from $113,443 to $122,262 in January 2019 if he is re-elected, according to county data.
The average salary for sheriffs in the five other counties surveyed is $142,505.
Retired Utah police officer William Froehlich is running against Sickler.
Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker’s $94,578 salary will rise to $97,074 with the cost-of-living raise, but she already has received the maximum number of annual merit raises allowed under the county’s pay methodology.
Clerks in the other five counties receive an average salary of $94,464.
Justice of the Peace Joe Charter and Surveyor Scott Fein also have received the maximum number of merit raises.
With a cost-of-living raise, Charter’s pay will rise from $82,493 to $84,677, which compares with an average of $93,460 in the five other counties.
Fein’s $94,578 salary will increase to $97,074. The average pay for surveyors in the other counties is $84,228.
The county calculates the 2.65 percent cost-of-living raises by multiplying that percentage by a rounded hourly pay rate, then multiplying that figure by the number of work hours in a year.
The results are slightly different than if the county multiplied the annual salaries by the 2.65 percent.
The salary discussions were part of a recent series of Budget Committee meetings that culminated in the approval this week of a $358 million county budget for the fiscal year that starts in July.
The current budget is $339 million.