Yellow Medicine County Commissioners divided over pay increases for themselves

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Salaries for non union employees, the county attorney, the county sheriff and commissioners were raised at the Yellow Medicine County Board meeting on Thursday morning.
The raises for County Attorney Keith Helgeson, County Sheriff Bill Flaten and non-union employees were met with unanimous approval, which raised salaries by one percent and added $100 to health care contributions as recommended by County Administrator Peg Heglund.
This increase meant Helgeson’s salary would be increased to $99,422.34 and Sheriff Bill Flaten’s salary to $85,884.58.  Family Service Director Rae Ann Keeler-Aus and County Administrator Peg Heglund will see a raise of roughly $750 and $900 respectively.
However, the vote for commissioner raises were contended, as some members felt that they shouldn’t get a raise after the controversial 10.6% raise they received last year.
John Berends and Ron Antony were the two dissenting members, who also voted down the raise last year.
“We were put on the Union Committee in a 3-2 vote because we said ‘no’ last year, and we are taking the brunt of it,” Antony said.
Berends, the other member of the Union Committee, mentioned that their raise from last year was brought up in every union meeting when negotiating union salaries.
Gary Johnson, Louis Sherlin and Greg Renneke felt that a raise on par with that granted other county employees  was only fair.
“They need to remember that we are part-time workers,” Johnson said, with the two-year member Renneke adding that commissioners hadn’t gotten a raise in the ten years preceding 2013.
“If they want to, they can run for commissioner and use all that money if they think it is that much,” Sherlin said.
While it was pointed out that anyone can reject their salary increase, Antony said that “you live and breathe as a board, operate as a board,” and take the implications of the board’s decisions together.
 The vote for commissioners salaries passed 3-2 with the aye votes coming for Johnson, Sherlin and Renneke and the nay votes coming from Antony and Berends.
A one percent bump of $208.58 would bring the annual salary of the county board members up to $21,067.
In other news:
• Financial Director Michelle May brought forward potential plans for refinancing the 2005 bond that the county is still paying, as per Heglund’s request that the commissioners keep it on their mind, but not to make a decision at that time.
May said that between the two consultants she was looking into, the county could save $100,000 to $140,000 in refinancing on the payments that are scheduled to end in 2022.
Johnson inquired what they would save if they dipped into the reserve fund to pay off the remaining $1.8 million in principal on the bond. May responded that the estimated savings in interest would be in the range of $200,000 to $300,000, but combined with the 2014 deficit would drain the reserves by $2.2 million dollars.