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Salary or Per Diem? County board deciding how it will be paid

The Door County Board of Supervisors is wrestling with how it gets paid. At its June 25 meeting, supervisors heard county Administrator Ken Pabich’s plan for a salaried payment system.

The supervisors are currently paid on a per diem basis, meaning they are paid only when they’re “on the clock” for county business, including portal-to-portal pay (driving time) to attend a meeting outside the county.

Pabich said they would like to have a resolution passed at the August meeting so they can get it into the next budget. Supervisors have two options: maintain the status quo or go to salary.

The salary would be $6,504 a year, paid in monthly increments of $542. In addition to the salary, each supervisor could claim up to $1,500 annually to pay for registration, lodging and meals to attend conferences. Mileage would remain separate.

The county board chair would receive an additional $5,496, for a total of $12,000. The vice chair would receive an additional $1,496, for a total of $8,000. Committee chairs would receive an additional $250 each.

Pabich said the per diem system costs the county about $158,540 a year. The salary-based system would cost $179,814, but with an expected return to the general fund of $16,000 annually from unused travel funds, the amount is really $162,568.

Pabich said from a fiscal perspective, it’s very close; and from an administrative perspective, it would be easier to deal with salaries than all the paperwork involved with the per diem system. 

“It’s really your preference,” Pabich told the board.

Supervisor Laura Vlies Wotachek suggested salaries should be tiered to reflect how many committees a supervisor serves on.

Supervisor Helen Bacon said she did not run for the office for the money. “Getting nitpicky about committees and money kind of defeats the purpose of why we ran,” she said.

Supervisor Susan Kohout said anyone running for county board needs to understand that serving on committees comes with the territory. “People need to be paid, but it is also public service,” she said. She added that she likes the travel-fund idea, and anyone who spends the allotted $1,500 can go to conferences after that “on their own dime.”

Supervisor David Enigl said he is not a fan of the salary system and thinks supervisors should be paid only for the time they spend working.

Supervisor Megan Lundahl said the bulk of her county board work is done outside of meetings, including talking with constituents. And as a working person, she said, a salary allows her to budget.

Bacon suggested that when a person is paid by the hour, more attention is paid to how long meetings go, whereas “if you’re salaried, those meetings can go on forever.”

Supervisor Roy Englebert said the salaried plan is very good for the committee structure.

Enigl asked whether Door County really needs 21 supervisors when some other counties the same size get by with as few as 16.

Pabich said that is an issue that will come up in 2021, after the 2020 census, when the county will have to go through redistricting and establish the number of supervisor seats.

Ultimately, the board decided to give the issue more thought, with the knowledge that something must be decided at the August county board meeting.

In other matters:

• The board approved a recommendation to lower the speed limit to 45 mph on the Namur curve on County DK in the Town of Union. Supervisor John Neinas, who chairs the Highway Committee, said the area has many driveways, and if people feel the need for speed, they should be driving on Highway 57.

• Accepted resolutions from the Towns of Brussels and Sturgeon Bay in support of continuing the municipal-based emergency medical service rather than privatizing it.

• Approved a resolution urging the legislature to revise state statutes for consistency in court fees and costs in probate and juvenile cases. Door County Register in Probate Jennifer Moeller explained to supervisors some of the inconsistencies in fees, such as adult adoptions. The adoption of minors is excluded from fees, Moeller said, but an adult who wants to be adopted is making that choice.

• Approved a resolution allowing the Crime Prevention Foundation to accept donations to help pay the costs of the three new school-resource officers who have been hired. Sheriff Tammy Sternard said a lot of people have approached her about how they could make donations, and the foundation seemed the best option.