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Lyon County commissioner salaries to increase next year

MARSHALL — Members of the Lyon County Board approved a salary increase for county commissioners next year. But in discussion, commissioners said the move was meant to keep Lyon County in line with what other counties in the area were paying their officials.

Commissioners discussed elected official salaries for 2019 on Tuesday, as part of their last regular meeting of the year. The county board had a few different financial decisions to make for the new year. At Tuesday’s meeting, they voted in favor of a 2 percent levy increase for 2019, as well as deciding on commissioner salaries and salaries for elected officials like the Lyon County Attorney and Lyon County Sheriff.

The debate over whether Lyon County should raise commissioner salaries is one that has been going on for some time. In 2017, board members pointed out that Lyon County’s commissioner salary — of $18,150 a year — was lower than average for area counties.

That hasn’t changed, commissioners said Tuesday. Commissioner Charlie Sanow proposed that the 2019 salary be set to $20,200.

“That is an average salary of what the nine counties in southwest Minnesota pay,” Sanow said. It would be a jump up from the current salary level, he said, but it would also be fair for commissioners to have a pay level more in line with neighboring counties.

“We’ve been working for $2,000 less than average for six years,” he said.

Sanow said one of the concerns about letting the commissioner salary stay lower than average was the possibility that it would help deter potential candidates from running for county office in the future. It’s already difficult for many people to serve as a county commissioner, because the job is time-consuming, Sanow said.

Commissioner Gary Crowley suggested that county commissioners’ pay should be adjusted at the same time that other county employees get pay raises. Lyon County Administrator Loren Stomberg said that could be done — however, the county would still need to approve that arrangement by resolution every year. Minnesota statutes require the county board to set commissioner salaries and per diem rates annually.

Commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of setting the 2019 commissioner salary at $20,200, with Commissioner Steve Ritter casting the dissenting vote. At the same time, however, commissioners also voted to keep per diem rates the same as in 2018. They also voted to keep additional pay for the county board chairperson at $250 a month. The additional $250 per month was first approved by commissioners in 2016, as a reflection of the added job responsibilities and time commitments of the chairperson.

Later in Tuesday’s meeting, board members went into closed session to conduct a performance review of the county attorney and sheriff. After closed session, commissioners set 2019 salaries at $131,834 for County Attorney Rick Maes, and at $99,100 for incoming Sheriff Eric Wallen.

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