Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Share the pain


When will the fact that the nation's economy suffered a deep and lasting drop following the Great Crash of 2008 sink in to local public officials?

While people with jobs in the private sector have seen local home values drop and incomes stagnate or disappear, those in the public sector seem to be getting off unscathed.

The latest assault on the public purse was this week when Blaine County commissioners welcomed the suggestion that they're underpaid and should consider raising salaries for their offices.

County Administrator Derek Voss said that data gathered by his office suggested that instead of the $55,434 the commissioners make now, that a "market-rate" wage would be $90,147—46 percent more than the county's median household income.

That would be a whopping 63 percent increase and put a commissioner's salary second only to Ada County's $95,524.

Voss should look again.

Blaine County commissioners are the eighth highest paid in Idaho behind Ada, Canyon, Kootenai, Bonneville, Nez Perce, Bannock and Bingham counties with their far larger populations, economies and numbers of employees. And unlike local business owners and employees whose fortunes rise and fall with local economic conditions, commissioners take no market risk at all.

Ten years ago, commissioners did the work that a county administrator and human resources officer do today. The addition of those positions helped them do what they're elected to do: make policy. It also lightened their loads.

Property taxes give government a stable revenue base, but they shouldn't be a license to abuse taxpayers in troubled times. Blaine County isn't Wall Street and elected officials need to recognize that the 2.29 people living in each household with a median household income of $61,854 are still struggling to adjust to a new normal.

Elected officials and public employees need to share the pain, not ignore it or rub salt in a festering wound.




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