Presiding commissioner candidates disagree on county officials' salaries

Thursday, October 21, 2010 | 8:02 p.m. CDT; updated 10:52 p.m. CDT, Thursday, October 28, 2010
All but one of Boone County’s elected officials have higher salaries compared to the average salaries of elected officials in other First Class counties in Missouri. The highest paid elected official in Boone County is the prosecuting attorney, with the sheriff following close behind.

COLUMBIA — The candidates for presiding commissioner are running for an $84,000 job.

It's one of almost a dozen elected positions in Boone County that pays more than $80,000. Republican contender Ed Robb said this is too high of a salary for what he calls a part-time job. Democrat J. Scott Christianson, Robb's opponent, and County Clerk Wendy Noren both said Robb lacks understanding about how county government operates.

What's a First Class county?

The Missouri Revised Statutes offers this definition of a First Class county, a classification that includes Boone County.

  • A county is automatically First Class if it keeps an assessed valuation of at least $600 million over a span of five years. The county's governing body has to approve this change.
  • Any Second Class county that had an assessed valuation of at least $400 million for at least one year on Aug. 13, 1988, can, by a resolution from its governing body, become a First Class county.

Source: Missouri Revised Statutes 48.020 and 48.030

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Robb's campaign committee paid for a pair of radio advertisements that began Wednesday. The two ads point out the amount of these salaries, which he wants to change.

"Just look at our peer counties," Robb said in an interview. "We're almost 60 percent higher than some of them."

The Missourian obtained salaries for elected officials from nine other First Class counties. Most Boone County officers were paid an average of about $20,000 more than their counterparts. Greene County, home to Springfield, is closest in terms of pay — most of its elected officers make about $8,000 less than those in Boone County.

Noren said Boone County officials get the same percent pay raise as the county's lowest clerical positions. She said this policy dates back to 1997.

"What we wanted from the beginning is a rational thing where the highest paid people got increases only when the lowest paid people did," she said.

When one person's salary is higher than another's, an equal percent increase mathematically means the higher-paid position will get a bigger raise, dollar for dollar. But for the past several years, no one in county government has gotten a raise, because of budget restrictions.

Both Robb and Christianson said they would vote against any pay increases for themselves.

"I don't think anybody is going to vote for a raise, given the current economic climate," Christianson said.

Robb also said these county positions are part-time jobs. He points to a change in a state statute that removed the words "full time" from the books. When asked about Boone County and its officeholders, Robb wouldn't comment on the amount of time they work.

"This is not rocket science," he said. "Everybody in the county who is observant knows which officials are full time and which are part time."

Christianson said Robb doesn't understand what county officials do.

"I don't think you're going to find anyone that is half-time," he said.

Noren said her position is far from part time. She has dozens of other responsibilities under state law, she said, though many people associate her job duties with early November.

"I have a full-time job before elections," Noren said. "Elections just put me in double-time."

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