TORRINGTON – The regular meeting of the Goshen County Commission (GCC) was held Tuesday with Commissioners John Ellis, Justin Burkart and Cody Cox in attendance along with County Clerk Cindy Kenyon with a discussion on elected official’s wages.
After the approval of a revised agenda, Goshen County Sheriff Kory Fleenor provided his report stating the recently hired nurse just quit as she was offered more money at the prison.
County Treasurer Leticia Dominguez provided her report. She mentioned property taxes have started coming in and also her department will be at full staff beginning June 1.
Clerk of District Court Brandi Correa reported the Supreme Court was finally able to fix the problem of them not being able to cut a check to Goshen County due to the criminal acts of Kathi Rickard. She was finally able to cut a check to the Treasurer.
Kenyon presented three employee bonds to the commission for approval and an updated warrant report in the total of $226,649. And another $27,710 for the public defender bill.
Library board member Larry Curtis provided the commission with the library report. The summer reading program has begun for pre-k – third graders.
The commission then held budget amendments for the fairgrounds and joint powers board.
County Attorney Eric Boyer brought forth a discussion that when there is an issue needing to be addressed, it needs to be addressed properly and through the appropriate channels.
“There’s all kinds of appropriate channels. There’s the sheriff, there’s the police department, there’s me…the commissioners,” Boyer said. “But it needs to be addressed officially in public not behind the scenes, so it somehow has the effect of changing people’s behavior or leading to the impression that someone was trying to change people’s behavior.”
County Assessor Debbi Surratt presented reduction orders to the commission for approval. She mentioned formal protests were to be received by end of day Thursday.
Kenyon presented the warrant report in the amount of around $835,000. During discussion of the warrant report, Boyer asked how the approximately $227,000 in federal fire money is disbursed. Kenyon said the fire warden indicates where the money goes and so far, Yoder fire district gets $187,394.04 and the other funds have yet to be expended.
Fleenor, Surratt, Correa and Dominguez were present to join in the discussion on Resolution 2022-04 Setting Salaries of Goshen County Elected Officials.
After two previous elected official wage proposals, the commissioners brought forth a third proposal.
Fleenor voiced the first two proposals provided to elected officials were “a slap in the face.”
“We all as elected officials voiced our opinions about how much extra duties we have versus our appointed counterparts with municipalities,” Fleenor said. “But the one that you guys handed out this morning was far better than the one in April.”
Surratt mentioned that elected officials have gotten the short end of the stick with a 1% increase every year for four years which put them behind the national averages.
“We’re going into that now looking at a 6 to 8% increase for our cost of living increase nationwide. So now we’re 12% behind,” Surrat said. “I’m not proposing a 12% increase, though it would be nice. I just don’t feel like that’s something the county could even sustain or should sustain at this point.”
Surratt mentioned their goal, based on seeing the county compared to other counties providing similar work and with evaluations taken into consideration, they would like to see the salary hit the $70,000 mark at some point. She said this resolution does not reach that, but it is a closer step than the original resolution presented.
“There’s 14 other salaries that are hinging upon these decisions…it’s not just us, it’s our deputies,” Surratt said.
Surratt said the elected officials initially proposed a 5% increase from what they have currently to the first year of the next term, then a 3% consecutively for two years and then a final year would be a 3.6% increase.
She also mentioned the $1,000 bonus from the ARPA funds the commissioners were able to pay out did a lot for morale and she was grateful staff was able to receive it, but also noted elected officials did not receive the bonus.
Commissioner Ellis mentioned that as this is his last term on the commission, he would hate to see cuts being made in the future.
“I feel like…you’ve got all this money that we’re supposed to have. And to me it’s fake money. It’s not real because it’s going to go away some day,” Ellis said. “I would hate to be sitting up here…and have to call people in and say we’re going to have to cut because the county can’t afford what we have proposed.”
Ellis said he didn’t think at this point in time the $70,000 proposal is sustainable, but that a sustainability study had not been done on it. He suggested to just stick the proposal brought forth and “get it over and done with” with the hope that something better will happen down the road.
Fleenor expressed how in the original proposal, most elected officials voiced a $4,000 increase over a four-year period was not very good.
“And then what we got back was not only that…so the second slap in the face was the commissioners were not going to get a raise in the original one,” Fleenor said. “Then the second one we got back, there was a $3,000 raise for the commissioners…but that second slap in the face was ‘watch this’, we’re going to give ourselves an additional raise for us at the expense of you.”
After discussion, it was determined the elected officials deserve a second look at their proposal. A special meeting is set for Tuesday, May 31 at 9 a.m. to further discuss the proposal.