Riley County commissioners engaged in a lengthy debate before approving the starting salary for incoming commissioner-elect Marvin Rodriguez Monday morning.
Ultimately, the commission approved a starting salary of $39,643.78 for the new District 2 representative, who will be sworn in on January.
Sitting District 2 commissioner Robert Boyd was the objector in the 2-1 vote. Boyd was defeated by Rodriguez in the Republican primary.
In July, commissioners voted to freeze their salaries for the 2017 budget at $43,403.62.
It has been customary for newly-elected officials to inherit the same pay as their predecessors in Riley County, but when it came to Rodriguez, Boyd referenced a 2008 salary and wages study the county contracted with McGrath Human Resources Group, Inc., that suggested “elected employees with the minimum skills and qualifications for the position should begin at the minimum salary of the schedule.”
The county’s minimum starting salary for a commissioner is $33,077.78.
“You got a tax lid coming at you and we opted to take a cut in our COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) and freeze our salaries knowing that’s coming up,” Boyd said. “It just seems this is the time to get it back to (what) McGrath stated. I think that’s appropriate. I think that’s what we should do. That’s why we hired those folks.”
Commission Chairman Ben Wilson thought Rodriguez should be paid the same as himself and commissioner Ron Wells before he and Wells settled with the mid-point starting salary.
“I feel like to be fair, the commissioners should all have either the same pay or same starting pay,” he said. “I’m hesitant to start Marvin significantly lower than the rest of us started unless we’re going to accompany that with pay cuts for all the commissioners back to those levels.”
Wilson assumed the pay of former commissioner Dave Lewis when Wilson was sworn into office in 2015, which was $39,239.20.
County Clerk Rich Vargo said it’s been a struggle for commissions to adhere to McGrath’s study, which was added to county’s policy guidelines in 2009 and suggested a maximum pay for Riley County commissioners at $52,000.
“In reality, that discussion already has been had years ago,” Vargo said. “And that’s the reason for the McGrath policy. That was made years ago and here’s what continues to happen once again. No one ever wants to implement it.”