Ada County has granted pay raises to all its elected officials, ranging from 2 percent for the commissioners and clerk to 15 percent for Sheriff Gary Raney.
Raney’s raise and a 2 percent raise for Prosecutor Greg Bower cement their positions as two of the three best-paid county officials in Idaho at $115,535 and $139,648 respectively.
The commissioners say county revenues are growing and elected officials’ salaries — particularly the sheriff’s — need to be aligned with the marketplace and to recognize top performance.
The sheriff says he oversees one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the state and his pay should be commensurate with the level of experience and leadership the position requires.
“This wage adjustment merely brings him to the middle of the wage range for his local counterparts,” commission Chairman Rick Yzaguirre wrote in response to a Statesman query.
Elected officials in Boise, Meridian and Canyon County decided not to give themselves raises in budgets approved this summer.
The Ada commission approved Tuesday a nearly $200 million budget for 2013, which starts Oct. 1. Sixty percent of the budget is personnel-related.
In Idaho, county commissioners set budgets for all elected county officials’ departments and set the salaries for all elected officials.
In 2010, Ada elected officials received no increase; in 2011, each got a 2.5 percent raise.
Starting Oct. 1, Commissioners Rick Yzaguirre, Sharon Ullman and David Case and Clerk Chris Rich each will receive a 2 percent increase to $97,434.
Seven percent increases are going to Assessor Bob McQuade ($89,876), Coroner Erwin Sonnenberg ($83,237) and Treasurer Vicky McIntyre ($89,902).
Under the new budget, all county employees get a raise of at least 2 percent. Employees and officials received a 2.5 percent increase last October; salaries were frozen from 2008 to 2010.
SHERIFF VS. CHIEFS
Raney has been sheriff for eight years and with the Sheriff’s Office for 29 years. His 2012 annual pay of $100,465 is about $7,000 a year less than the lowest-paid city police chief in Ada County. Garden City Chief James Bensley makes $119,933; Boise Chief Mike Masterson $116,896; and Meridian Chief Jeff Lavey $107,995.
“We recognized that the position of sheriff is not being paid a salary commensurate with the responsibility of the office,” Yzaguirre said. “The sheriff is ... not only responsible for the full array of police services, but also the Ada County Jail, pre-trial release program, alternative sentencing program, consolidated dispatch center and soon to be misdemeanor probation.”
Raney said that if his pay were not increased, three of his employees would make more than he does as his office tries to catch his management team up to salaries comparable to other departments.
Starting Oct. 1, Chief Deputy Sheriff Ron Freeman’s pay increases 10 percent to $113,214; Capt. Scott Johnson 10.6 percent to $108,021; and Capt. Steven Kelly 13.3 percent to $103,970.
“Really, to me, it is a correction,” Raney said. “It is an equitable compensation.”
AROUND THE STATE
Raney may not be the highest-paid law enforcement official in Ada County, but he is the highest-paid sheriff in Idaho and third-highest paid county official in the state come Oct. 1.
Bower, who has been Ada prosecutor since 1982, is the highest paid county official in the state at what will be just under $140,000. The Blaine County prosecutor is second at $132,097.
After Raney, the best-paid sheriffs are Blaine ($88,159), Canyon ($87,012), Kootenai ($84,872) and Nez Perce ($76,482), according to a 2012 salary survey prepared by the Idaho Association of Counties.
Ada County is the state’s most populous county — one-quarter of the state’s population lives here. With 650 employees, the Sheriff’s Office is the state’s largest.
The Sheriff’s Office is a “complex organization” with a $56 million budget — kept low with Raney’s “competent and fiscally sound planning and management,” Yzaguirre said.
“We are spending a few thousand dollars now as an investment in professional leadership for the future,” he said.
NEW ‘LONGEVITY PLAN’ FOR PATROL DEPUTIES
Raises approved this week of 5 to 15 percent for 102 patrol deputies are designed to make salaries more competitive and improve retention, Raney said.
Last year, six veteran deputies with 68 years combined experience left the Sheriff’s Office for the Boise Police Department because of the pay and benefit gap, Raney said.
A study conducted this spring by the county showed wages in his office were 15.3 percent behind Boise.
As of Oct. 1, the longevity pay plan will give patrol deputies 5, 10 or 15 percent additional pay on top of their base pay after five, 10 or 15 years experience, respectively.
That’s to encourage and reward the “patrol deputies with a badge and a gun out protecting the community,” Raney said.
Sheriff’s Office employees not included in the longevity plan will receive the 2 percent increase.
COMMISSIONERS: POWER, NOT THE PAY
In Idaho, county commissioners set budgets and pay for departments. But that power doesn’t translate into bigger salaries.
According to the Association of Counties’ study, prosecutors and sheriffs are the highest-paid elected county officials in 35 of Idaho’s 44 counties.
Association of Counties Deputy Director Tony Poinelli said there are two reasons county prosecutors and sheriffs make more than commissioners.
First, county prosecutors and sheriffs are typically full-time positions, while commissioners often are not.
Second, attorneys and law enforcement officers require specialized training.
Additionally, said Poinelli, state law requires that county prosecutors be paid at least the same amount as the public defender.
Poinelli said he has not reviewed all of the counties’ 2013 budgets, but he has heard many counties are still being conservative financially.
Counties that are granting pay increases are giving them to employees, not the elected officials, he said.
Cynthia Sewell: 377-6428, Twitter: @CynthiaSewell