Credit board for not hiking their pay

Luther Dorr
Luther Dorr

If you watched the football games Sunday – and they were interesting ones – you may have pulled the plug by the time the 10 o’clock news rolled around.

If you were still watching, and flipping around like I usually do, you might have run into the Channel 5 story about county commissioners in Isanti County voting themselves a raise.

Not that raises haven’t happened before for commissioners but this particular vote came at a special meeting the day after Christmas.

It was apparently a meeting that not too many people knew was taking place, according to an Isanti County source.

The increase the commissioners gave themselves was 1.5 percent and bumped their salaries up to $27,418.

Outgoing Commissioner Alan Duff cast the lone vote against the raise in a 4-1 vote.

“The County Board did not budget for county commissioner salary increases within the 2013 budget and I was not in favor of supporting a 1.5 percent increase,” Duff said in an Isanti County News story in the Jan. 9 issue.

George Larson, board chair in Isanti County, said in the same story that commissioners hadn’t had an increase in three years. “This seemed to be about the average increase from neighboring counties,” Larson told the News.

I’ve always been under the impression that Mille Lacs County borders Isanti County and, sure enough, a check of a Minnesota map shows that to be the case.

Mille Lacs County commissioners, at their Dec. 18 regular meeting, kept their salary at $17,304 and they’ve been without a raise for a number of years. They’ve also consistently not raised the tax levy during that time and even dropped the levy in a recent year.

Mille Lacs County commissioners get a per diem of $45 for meetings such as committee meetings outside of regular meetings.

Commissioners in Isanti County have a per diem of $60 AND get $75 if the meeting is out of the county.

Now I don’t pretend to know what things are like in Isanti County, having never attended a county board meeting there. And I’m sure the commissioners there are hard-working ones, I’ve known George Larson for 40 years and he’s a good guy, something one of the Mille Lacs County commissioners attested to when I talked with him Monday.

Maybe the standard of living is just higher there, or something like that.

If it is, I guess that would explain the fact that Isanti County commissioners get $10,114 more a year than their Mille Lacs County counterparts. That, my Mille Lacs County friends, is 58 percent higher,

And the per diem is 33 percent more, unless you go out of the county and then it’s 67 percent more. (And it turns out the board in Isanti had originally budgeted to reduce the per diems to $50 and $65 instead of the $60 and $75 that they maintained.)

Maybe some of the neighboring counties like Sherburne and Anoka (metro counties, I would call them), Chisago, Kanabec and Pine pay their commissioners a lot more than Mille Lacs does.

Whatever the case is, I think commissioners in Mille Lacs County should get credit for holding the line on their salaries and per diem.

Through the 50 months I’ve covered Mille Lacs County Board meetings on a regular basis, I’ve often heard county residents say they’re spending too much money. My experience has been that they are on the opposite side of that coin on most things.

I’ve disagreed with some of the expenditures and maybe there’s another column there. But, by and large, they’ve held the line. And they certainly haven’t lined their own pockets the last few years.

In fact, one of the commissioners has consistently said he’d like to see a 10-percent cut. That didn’t go over too well with his fellow commissioners, I’m told.

One person who has watched Mille Lacs County government for a long time called the salaries in Isanti County “obscene.”

Chad Struss, the finance director in Isanti County, stuck up for commissioners in the Isanti County News story of last week. And, as I said, I don’t know all the particulars.

But here’s a thank you to commissioners in Mille Lacs County who consistently have held the line on expenditures, particularly when it comes to their own salaries.

They deserve credit for that.