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Posted: July 23, 2013 7:11 p.m.

Look at all salaries

Salaries of the county’s elected officials are a hot topic, and we hope commissioners will use the opportunity to examine the salary structure of multiple positions.

We ran a story Sunday about the fact the county’s elected officials, including the county commissioners, are in line for an automatic pay raise once the county’s population is officially declared to be greater than 100,000.

There was some confusion at the state level regarding the issue, but some late-breaking reporting Tuesday leads us to believe elected officials will in fact get those automatic raises as the U.S. Census Bureau has already estimated Newton County’s population to be 101,505. We’re still confirming all of the details and will have an in-depth report in Friday’s paper.

The raise for county commissioners would be fairly modest – an increase of around $500 – but the timing is admittedly poor, given the fact the Newton County Board of Commissioners recently increased the millage rate for the 2013-2014 budget year.

Commissioner John Douglas wants to change the way the salaries are calculated for the board so commissioners don’t get the raise.

We assume most of his commissioners would feel the same way and doubt any would support a pay raise at the current time; we’ll find out when Douglas brings the issue up.

While they’re examining salaries, we suggest – as we’ve done many times before – that they review the salaries of the county chairman and county manager.

Let us be clear: This is not intended as a slap in the face of current Chairman Keith Ellis nor County Manager John Middleton.

We have continually raised this issue ever since former chairman Kathy Morgan was stripped of her administrative power by the board in late 2011, when commissioners voted to go to a county manager form of government.

While we disagree with the method in which the change occurred, we think a county manager form of government makes sense for a county our size. However, how does it make sense for the two positions to make the same as they did before, given the fact several duties and responsibilities were switched from the commission chairman to the county manager?

The current chairman position is more than a figurehead and definitely warrants a higher salary than the commissioners, but does it deserve more than four times as much?

We hope the board and chairman have the courage to examine the issue. If the research shows that the chairman’s salary is in line with similar officials around the state, then we might change our tune.

However, we did a story a couple of years ago that showed county managers in counties the size of ours generally made more than Middleton was being paid previously.

We need the true CEO of the county to be paid a competitive wage so we can attract the best talent the next time the spot comes open.

Let’s examine salaries and pay people a fair wage, even if the change doesn’t come until the next election. That’s the fairest decision for the taxpayers.

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