Solve the county salary problem
April 18, 2003
We took a little poll.
Everybody we spoke with said they would be happy to accept a 50 percent increase in pay over the next two years.
When we asked the people who would have to pay for the increases, however, we got a little different answer.
Some talked about the difficult economy. Some wondered if the pay were based on merit, or simply longevity. Others just said, “You’ve got to be kidding!”
That last comment, we think, is the most likely reaction from taxpayers to AB23 and SB53, the bills in front of the Nevada Legislature to raise dramatically the salaries of district attorneys and sheriffs.
The biggest raises would go to the DA and sheriff in Clark County, whose pay would go from $100,800 and $84,000, respectively, to $155,744 and $134,262.
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Those are actually more than 50 percent, but who’s counting?
In Carson City, the district attorney’s pay would go from $72,360 to $98,707. The sheriff’s salary would go from $60,000 to $81,846.
We’ve been down this trail more than once. In fact, the main argument from the Nevada Association of Counties is that county officials in general deserve big raises because their salaries haven’t been increased for many years.
This is true. But it’s also true — as we keep pointing out — that trying to catch up in one big chunk is the wrong way to build taxpayer support.
We also don’t necessarily disagree that the salaries are low and deserve to be higher. There are many instances in county governments, including Carson City, where the elected boss is making less than the hired assistant. A $98,000 salary for a district attorney is not out of line, nor is $81,000 for a sheriff.
Still, our previous suggestion still holds. The Legislature should be setting base pay scales (perhaps 10 percent higher than they are now), with cost-of-living increases built into the legislation, for county elected officials. Then each county’s commissioners, or supervisors in Carson’s case, can decide how much higher the pay should go each year in the context of their annual budgets.
The people who pay those salaries — the taxpayers — might actually support that idea. As they stand, AB23 and SB53 only raise salaries without solving the problem.