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Pay hikes considered for county elected officials


November 02, 2005 - Initial approval of legislation to increase the salaries of the county executive, the county prosecuting attorney and County Council members was scheduled to be considered earlier this week by the County Council.

The County Council was scheduled to meet Tuesday night — after the Call went to press.

As proposed, the salary of the county executive would increase to $140,000 from $125,000 and the salary of the prosecuting attorney would increase to $135,000 from $120,000. Pay for councilmen would in-crease to $20,000 from $12,500. The council chairman receives an additional 25 percent and that would remain unchanged.

As proposed, the salary increases for county executive and county prosecuting attorney would be effective Jan. 1, 2007, for candidates elected to the posts in the November 2006 election. Salary increases for councilmen in Districts 1, 3, 5 and 7 would be effective Jan. 1, 2007, for candidates elected in November 2006. Salary increases for councilmen in Districts 2, 4 and 6 would be effective Jan. 1, 2009, for candidates elected in November 2008.

The prosecuting attorney's salary last was increased in 2000, as was the county executive's salary. Those increases — a nearly 40 percent hike for the county executive and a nearly 35 percent raise for the prosecuting attorney — were effective Jan. 1, 2003. Councilmen's salaries, however, have increased just once since 1979.

The proposed pay hikes were prompted after a request from Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch for a raise, according to an Oct. 21 memorandum to the County Council written by Councilman Skip Mange, R-Town and Country, and Coun-cilman Mike O'Mara, D-north county.

"Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch has requested the County Council to increase the compensation for the prosecuting attorney, and has provided information relating to his request to the council,'' the memo stated. "If the council were to act on Mr. McCulloch's request, the salary of the county prosecutor would exceed that of the county executive. In light of Mr. McCulloch's request, it seems appropriate to review the compensation of all county elected officials, and not to address this issue in a piecemeal fashion.''

McCulloch, who has served as prosecuting attorney since 1991, requested a raise in 1997. He initially sought a nearly $20,000 pay increase — to $99,000 from $79,500.

In December 1997, the County Council voted 5-0 with two abstentions to approve a nearly $10,000 increase for the prosecuting attorney's salary — to $89,000. That salary increase was effective Jan. 1, 1999.

Voting in favor of the salary increase were Councilman Kurt Odenwald, R-Shrewsbury; Councilman Greg Quinn, R-west county; then-Councilman Edith Cun-nane, R-Creve Coeur; then-Councilman Jeff Wagener, D-Oakville; and then-Coun-cilman Robert Young IV, D-north county.

Abstaining were then-Chairman Charlie Dooley, a Democrat who now serves as county executive, and then-Councilman Jim O'Mara, D-north county, the father of current Councilman Mike O'Mara.

In December 2000, the County Council voted to increase the salaries of the county executive and the prosecuting attorney, effective Jan. 1, 2003.

In a letter to County Counselor Patricia Redington requesting legislation for the salary increases, then-County Council Chairman Jim O'Mara wrote that the county executive's salary had been in effect since 1993 and "does not compare favorably'' with the salaries of other area elected and appointed officials, including the St. Louis mayor and the executive director of the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District.

On Dec. 14, 2000, the council voted 5-2 to increase the salary of the county executive to $125,000 from $89,500. Voting in favor of the motion were Jim O'Mara, Dooley, Young, Cunnane and Wagener. Opposed were Odenwald and Quinn.

The council voted 4-3 that same day to increase the salary of the prosecuting attorney to $120,000 from $89,000. Voting in favor of the motion were Jim O'Mara, Dooley, Young and Wagener. Opposed were Odenwald, Quinn and Cunnane.

In their memo, Mange and Mike O'Mara wrote, "The salary for council members was set at $11,000 in the charter revisions of 1979. Sometime thereafter, but prior to 1990, the salary for council members was increased to $12,500 ...''

The memo also notes that for the past several years, the average annual merit increase for county employees has been 3.9 percent and the merit pay pool for the past two years has been 3 percent. During the same period, the Consumer Price Index has been 2.8 percent.

An annual increase of 3 percent over the past four years for the prosecuting attorney's salary would total $135,061, while the same increase applied to the county executive's salary would total $140,689, according to the memo.

"The compensation of the county executive has historically been greater than the compensation for the county prosecutor — which is consistent with other counties and also state government,'' the memo states. "It is important that this distinction be maintained.''

The memo also notes, " ... The compensation for the County Council members has not changed for more than ... 16 years. Applying an annual increase of 3 percent to the starting level of $12,500 for the past 16 years, the new compensation level for council members would be $20,058.''

Council Chairman John Campisi, R-south county, told the Call he supports the proposed pay increase for councilmen.

"I think that the council members deserve some sort of pay increase because of the fact that we haven't had one since 1982 or 1983 and I don't think it should go up every year. I honestly think it should stay there for a while, maybe for eight years or something like that, then they should get some kind of increase ...,'' he said.

Asked about the proposed salary increases for the county executive and the prosecuting attorney, he said, "To tell you the truth, for Dooley and McCulloch, I think we're starting to get to a point where the pay increase could be looked at as going overboard. I just think there's a time when you say enough is enough and you don't keep that sort of increase coming every year with a 3 percent (increase). I think it needs to be looked at every four to eight years. I really do believe that.''

He added, "I think I'll support them this one last time. I really will. I'll support them this one last time, but that's about as far as I'm going to go. I think it really needs to be reviewed every four years and maybe a pay increase every eight years ...''

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