With just six hours remaining in the 2003 Legislature, a conference committee finally reached a deal that will give county elected officials their first pay raises in eight years.
Assembly Bill 23 will provide the same pay hikes it has contained all along for sheriffs and district attorneys. They will get raises averaging 36 percent.
It will raise salaries for assessors, recorders, clerks, public administrators and treasurers by 26.65 percent. And they must do so by a majority vote of the board, with anyone absent being counted as a "No" vote to prevent people from dodging the vote.
The pay increases will take effect July 1.
One of the keys to getting the bill through was removing the county commissioners from it. Instead, lawmakers put in language that allows elected commissions in each county to raise their own pay -- up to but not more than 26.65 percent.
There was never any question about raises for the sheriffs and district attorneys. Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, introduced the bill the first day of the session to provide their raises.
But the raises for all other elected officials were stalled by the Assembly Government Affairs Committee, which initially held them in a dispute over the refusal of Clark County commissioners to wrap up labor negotiations with its classified employees. Later, members said they didn't want to appear to be giving big raises to elected officials in a tight budget year.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said it wasn't fair to give raises to just some elected officials.
"It seems completely inappropriate if you're going to raise elected official salaries to raise just the district attorneys and sheriffs," he said.
The Assembly responded by offering everyone except the district attorneys and sheriffs a 3 percent pay raise.
But Raggio made it clear to the Assembly that either all would get a decent raise or no one would.
The Assembly finally agreed on the final day of the session.
Bob Hadfield of the Nevada Association of Counties said the raises are especially important to officials in some of the smaller counties. The old pay scale for clerks, assessors, recorders, public administrators and treasurers in some counties started as low as $33,600 a year. Hadfield said that was making it practically impossible for talented officials in those areas to stay in those jobs.
For middle-size counties, including Carson City, Douglas, Elko, Lyon and Nye, that means most of those officials will go from a base of $51,360 to $65,047 a year. In Humboldt, Lander and White Pine, the base of $42,840 will increase to $54,257 a year. In Eureka, Lincoln, Mineral, Pershing and Storey counties, the base pay will rise from $38,400 to $48,634, and in Esmeralda, from $33,600 to $42,554.
In Washoe, the increase will be from $66,000 to $83,589, and in Clark ,from $72,000 to $91,188.
District attorneys will get much larger increases. In Carson City and Douglas County, the base will increase from $72,360 to $98,707.
The same is true for sheriffs in Carson and Douglas counties, with the base increased from $60,000 to $85,670.