Tulsa County elected officials to get pay raises
BY KEVIN CANFIELD World Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
1/29/13 at 7:16 AM
Tulsa County's eight elected officials will receive a 2 percent pay increase beginning in February.
County commissioners voted 2-1 Monday to approve the salary hike, the first for county elected officials in four years.
The pay increase amounts to $2,007 a year. County elected officials currently earn $100,387 a year.
They are also eligible for a car allowance of up $600 a month and a cell phone reimbursement of up to $125 a month.
"My argument against not having any increase is, just like any other job, in order to attract people to that job, you need to be paying them at a competitive rate," said County Commissioner Fred Perry, who voted for the increase. "There is no question in my mind that elected officials could earn more in private industry than they earn here. I had my own personal experience to back that up."
County Commission Chairwoman Karen Keith also voted for the pay increase but said after the meeting that she would return hers to the general fund.
Keith said she voted for it because that was the recommendation of her fellow elected officials on the Tulsa County Budget Board.
Commissioner John Smaligo voted against the pay hike, rejecting Perry's assertion - based on budget board discussions - that county elected officials' pay is not necessarily competitive with those of other elected officials.
"I do think that salaries for (county) elected officials are competitive when you look at pay for elected officials throughout the state of Oklahoma," Smaligo said.
Smaligo also rejected the argument presented by Perry and Keith that increasing county elected officials' salaries would help elected officials attract and retain qualified support staff.
County elected officials have discretion in setting their chief deputies' salaries. But state law prohibits chief deputies from earning more than their bosses.
For example, the county commissioners pay their chief deputy, Mark Liotta, 90 percent of what they earn. Based on a commissioner's current annual salary, that is $90,348. Treasurer Dennis Semler pays his chief deputy, Steve Blue, 95 percent of what he earns, which amounts to $95,367 a year based on the treasurer's current salary.
"As far as other employees, there are certain situations where certain degrees and skill sets are able to be paid more than elected officials," Smaligo said.
Monday's vote came a month after the budget board voted to give most county employees a 2 percent raise. The budget board made the raises retroactive to Dec. 1. It was the first across-the-board pay increase for county employees in four years and did not apply to those who had received performance-related pay increases during that time.
The budget board, which is made up of the eight elected officials or their designees, was deadlocked in December on whether to give elected officials a pay increase.
The board took up the issue again last week and voted 6-0 to recommend the pay increase. Smaligo and Assessor Ken Yazel were not present for the vote.
The county's other elected officials are Sheriff Stanley Glanz, County Clerk Pat Key and Court Clerk Sally Howe-Smith.
According to state law, Tulsa County elected officials were eligible for pay increases of up to 2.7 percent. County elected officials' salaries are set using a formula created by the Legislature that includes population and property tax collections.
Asked after the meeting whether a pay increase was appropriate when many people are struggling to find work - or have not seen pay increases in years - Perry said there "had been a lot of increases in private industry in salaries."
He compared the work of the county's elected officials to CEOs overseeing a private business. In the case of Tulsa County, Perry said, elected officials oversee 1,800 employees and an annual budget of more than $100 million.
"You are going to find salaries of $200,000, $300,000, $400,000" being paid to CEOs in the private sector with comparable responsibilities, Perry said.
Some government salaries in Oklahoma*
$191,758: Tulsa City Physician Dr. Phillip Berry
$174,500: TPS Superintendent Keith Ballard
$153,500: Broken Arrow City Manager Thom Moton
$147,000: Governor Mary Fallin
$147,000: Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Colbert
$145,600: Tulsa City Manager Jim Twombly
$125,467: Tulsa County IT Director Tom Trimble
$121,677: Tulsa County Engineer Tom Rains
$120,146: Owasso City Manager Rodney Ray
$105,000: Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett
$102,394: Tulsa County elected officials
$38,400: State legislators**
$18,000: Tulsa city councilors***
*Figures do not include stipends for vehicles and other benefits officials might receive
**Legislators in leadership positions earn more
***City councilor is considered a part-time job
Original Print Headline: County officials to get pay increases
Kevin Canfield 918-581-8313
Fred Perry: "... just like any other job, in order to attract people to that job, you need to be paying them at a competitive rate."