YERINGTON - Local justices of the peace will not get a cost of living increase this year.
Reacting to an appeal from Dayton Justice of the Peace Ed Johnson, Lyon County commissioners last week reiterated their original intent of denying the justices a 3 percent cost of living increase for the current budget year.
Johnson told the board he understood the June 1, 2000, motion by Commissioner David Fulstone to increase justices' salaries effective Jan.1, 2000, "with no cost of living increase for the next year" to mean the next calendar year.
"Our (the county's four justices of the peace) assumption was that "next year' was the next calendar year. We would have discussed it at the time if we had understood what you meant," Johnson told the board. "You have, in essence, reduced what was approved as salary. You cannot, by statute, reduce the minimum established salary."
Johnson, retiring at the end of this year, said eliminating the cost of living increase in this year's budget reduced what would have been a justly expected higher salary.
Commissioner LeRoy Goodman strongly stated his disagreement with Johnson's position.
"The action was taken in a previous fiscal year by motion in a public meeting. I'm sorry if you misread the intent. You have been in the county long enough to understand," Goodman stated.
"I don't think you speak for the other justices. I suggest you take it up with a higher court if it means that much to you."
Fulstone stood by his original motion, saying the minutes of the June 1 meeting were clear.
"I felt going to $12,000 was a substantial cost to the county and that we did not need to do a cost of living increase," he said. "In context of budgets, speaking of fiscal budget years, this is totally what I meant. It would be remiss of this board to change the intent of the motion."
County fiscal years run from July 1 through June 30.
Justices are paid based on the number of days they work per week. A justice who works five days every week receives a base salary of $60,000 per year. If the justice worked only three days out of the week, he or she would recieve $36,000.
The only elected officials whose salaries are not set by the state legislature, they also receive an annual 2 percent longevity benefit and, if local officials wish to do so, a cost of living increase.
Comptroller Rita Evasovic said she took the intent of the June 1, 2000, motion to mean no cost of living increase should be granted for fiscal year 2000/01 and did not build the funding into the budget.
Fulstone's motion to take no further action on Johnson's claim passed 3-2, with Commissioners Bob Milz and Chet Hillyard voting in opposition.