Commissioners Struggle to Justify Elected Official Salary Raises

Commissioners Struggle to Justify Elected Official Salary Raises

SWEETWATER COUNTY — During the Sweetwater County Commission meeting Tuesday, the Commissioners expressed their disfavor with raising the salaries of elected officials.

Elected officials recently presented a proposal to the Commission to raise the salaries of the county assessor, attorney, sheriff, treasurer, clerk, district court clerk, and coroner. This proposal came after the Wyoming Legislature passed HB91 during its budget session, which “amends the salaries for county assessors, part-time county-and-prosecuting attorneys, part-time county attorneys, county clerks, clerks of district court, county sheriffs, and county treasurers.”

Due to this, the elected officials are seeking a salary increase. The bill sets the cap on salaries at $145,000. County Assessor Dave Divis said the elected officials agreed the county attorney and sheriff should make the most with $135,000. According to the July 2021 salary disclosure, currently in Sweetwater County the county assessor, attorney, clerk, clerk of district court, and sheriff make $100,000. The county coroner salary is set at $65,000 and the treasurer made $94,743.65 this past year.

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However, the Commission did not express their support for this proposal during Tuesday’s Commission meeting. Commissioner Roy Lloyd said he has a hard time justifying the raises based on the presentation given by the elected officials.

“I think my record has shown I’ve been pro-employee the entire time I’ve been a commissioner and have always advocated for the best for our employees, but I think in this position is the first time I’m not going that way,” Commissioner Lloyd said. “I don’t know if I’m really not being pro-employee, I just don’t think I agree with the methodology of thinking. I really struggle with some of the presentation for moving those salaries to $130,000 to $135,000. The comparisons we’re getting is ‘this is what our department directors make’ but I don’t think it’s an apples-to-apples decision.” 

He said one of the reasons the elected officials cited to receive raises was that there are department directors in the county who are making the same or more than them. Lloyd added that he doesn’t believe this is good justification because when hiring department directors they are looking at the employee, whereas when setting salaries for elected officials they are looking at a position.

“When we look at hiring someone and giving someone a raise that’s a department director, we can take a look at their years of service, their education level, what they bring to the table, and what they have brought to the table. When we’re putting a salary to an elected official, we’re hiring a position, not an individual, so some of those things don’t matter,” Commissioner Lloyd said.

I do appreciate all of our elected officials… I just have a hard time justifying what was presented to us as a raise increase. 

-Commissioner Roy Lloyd

Commissioner Lloyd also noted that so far the only two counties in the state who have raised the elected official salaries are Teton and Sheridan County. Teton County raised all their elected official salaries to $145,000. According to Lloyd, Sheridan County raised the sheriff salary from $71,115 to $91,400, the attorney salary from $98,500 to $115,000, and the rest of the positions went from $67,800 to $87,100. 

Commissioner Mary Thoman said the average salary for elected officials across the state is $60,000 to $70,000, according to salary schedules given to the Commission by Jerimiah Rieman, Wyoming County Commissioners Association’s Executive Director. 

“If you look at Sheridan County’s population size, there are 31,283 people compared to our 40,778. But if you look at even the three bigger counties than us, we’re equal to what Campbell County is, but we already pay more than Natrona and Laramie. So I have a hard time really looking at that $135,000 number and that big jump for those departments,” Commissioner Lloyd said.

Commissioners Thoman and Lauren Schoenfeld both said they would support providing a Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) raise to the elected officials, but they agreed they couldn’t justify the leap in salaries.

Commissioner Lloyd also said that since they are talking about elected officials, he felt it was important to note he will be recommending a 25 percent decrease in commissioner salaries during the budget process this year.

“I don’t want to have any discussion about moving commissioner salaries, in fact, when we get to our budget I’ll recommend a 25 percent cut in commission salaries like I did last year. I know it won’t go, but I will be making that recommendation as I did last year. With that being said, I want to make it clear to constituents that I don’t think that’s something we should consider whatsoever,” he said.

Commissioner Lloyd will be working with the county’s HR department and speaking with elected officials to come up with a proposal to discuss and possibly approve at the next Commission meeting on May 3.