County Board Finalizes Bump to Their Pay

Washtenaw County commissioners voted to increase their base salaries from $15,500 to $15,750 annually and replace per diem payments with stipends, effective Jan. 1, 2013. The action occurred at the county board’s Dec. 5, 2012 meeting. Commissioners had previously debated the issue at their Nov. 7 meeting, giving the increase initial approval at that time. On Dec. 5, the only commissioner voting against the changes was Dan Smith (R-District 2).

Most commissioners currently are paid a salary of $15,500. The new amount of $15,750 is calculated by indexing it to one-half the median “step” of the lowest grade salary among county employees. The resolution authorizing the increase also directs future boards to adjust commissioner salaries based on this same calculation.

Officers of the board earn more than other commissioners. The board chair, Conan Smith, is currently paid $18,500. The board vice chair, Alicia Ping, earns $16,000, while chairs of the board’s ways & means committee (Rolland Sizemore Jr.) and working session (Yousef Rabhi) are each paid $16,500. Starting next year, all board chairs will receive $3,000 over their base salary. In a friendly amendment added to the resolution on Dec. 5 by Yousef Rabhi, the board vice chair will receive an extra $1,000 over the base salary.

Currently, commissioners also have a $3,550 flex account to use for per diem and mileage reimbursements, training or other authorized expenses. For example, a per diem of $25 per authorized meeting is allowed, as is mileage driven to those meetings – at a current rate of $0.555 per mile. Some commissioners don’t use their flex accounts, however, and most don’t use the entire amount. The payments are administered through the county clerk’s office.

The resolution given final approval on Dec. 5 changes that approach. Starting in 2013,  commissioners will receive stipend payments based on the number of meetings that a commissioner is likely to attend for a particular appointment. One or two meetings per year would pay $50, three or four meetings would pay $100, and the amounts increased based on the number of meetings. At the high end, more than 24 meetings would pay $1,000. Commissioners will be able to waive their stipends by giving written notice to the county clerk.

Changes to compensation for an upcoming term must be set by the board before that term starts. So for the two-year term beginning in January 2013, any changes in compensation must be made before the end of 2012.

Ronnie Peterson (D-District 6) stressed that because the number of commissioners on the board is decreasing from 11 to 9, the overall budget for commissioners is decreasing – despite the raises for individual commissioners.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: [link]