State Auditor questions county board pay cuts
Approving a pay cut is pretty easy. But, implementing it is a whole different matter if you are someone who is elected by the people.
Because of budget cuts, Faribault County employees have been asked to take unpaid furloughs to help save money.
County commissioners felt that elected officials also should do their part.
So, last month they unanimously passed a resolution to voluntarily reduce their wages and those of other elected officials by 3 percent.
And, the pay cuts were set to start immediately.
State Auditor Rebecca Otto says salary increases can be rescinded, however, the reductions can’t take effect until January 2010.
Salary adjustments of other county officials are covered by different state guidelines.
“State statute lays out the process as to how this happens. They may have really good intentions, but the Legislature sets the rules as to the process they should follow,” Otto says.
In addition, the state auditor says the resolution should specify the annual salary rather than percent increase or decrease.
The commissioners annual salaries will go from $18,270 to $17,738; county attorney and auditor, $92,938 to $90,230; county recorder, $58,328 to $56,628; and sheriff. $78,629 to $76,404.
County Auditor John Thompson says because all elected officials volunteered to take a pay cut, passing the resolution was legal.
“Since everyone is in agreement, there’s no harm or no foul,” he says. “Our attorney says it’s OK if everyone goes along with it.”
Under state law, most county boards are barred from raising or lowering their pay rates in mid-term.
Otto says there’s no penalty the county would face if state law is not followed.
Because her office has not seen the resolution or discussed the matter with county officials, Otto felt it was inappropriate to comment on it.
One way to get around the statute is to return the money.
In general, Otto says anyone from the public can make a financial contribution to local government.
“Any local governing body can accept gifts on behalf of the entity. The county board will have to decide whether they want to accept it,” she says.