KNOXVILLE — Budget talks for the upcoming fiscal year are underway for Marion County, including salary increases for county employees.

During a discussion at a Marion County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, Chairman Mark Raymie proposed a 4-5% salary increase for all county departments and a 6.5% salary increase for the Marion County Roads Department for the 2023-24 fiscal year.

Raymie's salary increase proposal for elected officials

Elected Office Present Salary Increase % Recommended Salary Change $
Supervisor $42,158 5.9% $44,645.32 $2,487.32
Sheriff $120,511 9% $131,356.99 $10,845.99
Auditor $84,289 3.78% $87,475.12 $3,186.12
Treasurer $82,206 4.17% $85,633.99 $3,427.99
Recorder $80,893 4.6% $84,614.08 $3,721.08
County Attorney $136.997 3.29% $141,504.20 $4,507.20

The larger salary increase for the roads department, Raymie said, is due to “salary compression and salary issues” that have made it difficult to retain staff.

“There’s always a drive for fairness and those things within county government, but we know we’re going to be dealing with some competitive issues as far as how we hire and retain particular staff in particular departments,” Raymie said. “In my opinion, our most important department is keeping our roads open. We saw that recently during the weather.”

Once salary increases are determined, department heads can then decide how they would like to distribute salary increases among their employees, Raymie said.

Elected official salaries are determined by recommendations from the Marion County Compensation Board. The compensation board recommended a 11.8% salary increase for county supervisors, along with 18% for the county sheriff, 7.56% for the county auditor, 8.3% for the county treasurer, 9.2% for the county recorder and 6.58% for the county attorney.

However, Raymie’s proposal cuts the compensation board’s salary increase recommendations for elected officials by 50%.

“These are pretty good percentage increases, so I think that was a reasonable starting point for me,” Raymie said. “It takes a $66,000 allocation down to $33,000.”

According to Raymie, both of these proposals will save the county about $79,610, keeping the total salary increase to $502,671. The county assessor is not included in this projection. 

Last year, county employees received a 6.14% salary increase, or a total of $595,233.78. Full-time employees also received $3,300 in “COVID bonuses” from American Rescue Plan Act funds and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a paid holiday.

“It’s always a challenge within government to try to fund all your projects, make sure you have a competitive health insurance program and make sure you have competitive salaries,” Raymie said.

Health insurance premiums for employees were projected to increase 10.42% last year, or a total of $219,583. Supervisors shifted $145,000 from a county dental account that had been accumulating funds for the last 10 years to “buy down” the premium increase to about 5% rather than 10.42%, Raymie said.

This year, the county is again projecting at least another 10% increase in health insurance premiums, according to Raymie.

“Net salary and health insurance for our employees are a big deal, but those two are massive dials for everybody. So how do we try to balance those [while] keeping a lid on our overall costs?” Raymie said.

Department proposals are due to the county auditor by Jan. 13. After the auditor prepares budget proposals for the supervisors, public discussions will begin during budget meetings sometime between Jan. 23-27. Budgets must be approved for publication Feb. 13.

No action for the county budget was taken during the meeting.

In other news:

— Supervisors reappointed Shannon Remington to the Marion County Board of Health. Her term ends Dec. 31, 2025.

— Supervisors reappointed Karen Ackley to the Marion County Conservation Board. Her term ends Dec. 31, 2027.

Emily Hawk is the associate editor of the Ottumwa Courier and the Oskaloosa Herald. She can be reached at ehawk@oskyherald.com.

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