In response to the state limits on collective bargaining, a Dane County Board of Supervisors committee unanimously voted this week to suspend a pay raise for county supervisors for the next two years.
The Personnel and Finance Committee voted after receiving a letter signed by 14 supervisors requesting no pay raise, according to a committee statement.
“The main reason is that county employee salaries are frozen for 2013 because of the economy and legislative situation,” Dane County Board Chair John Hendrick said.
Hendrick said the board does not believe it should get pay raises if county employees are not receiving them.
Supervisor Melissa Sargent, District 18, said state government issued levying limits in 2011, which puts limits on how much the county can pay its employees. Sargent said the state government essentially froze the county’s taxing authorities.
“There’s a war on local government from the state,” Sargent said. “I don’t think the state is really listening to us at local levels of government. Hopefully it sends a message to our very valuable county employees.”
Hendrick said the board has negotiated contracts that include no salary increase for county employees for both 2014 and 2015. There is also the possibility of pay cuts being implemented in 2015, so the committee wanted the two-year freeze to be in effect into that year.
Hendrick also noted the impact of Act 10, a law enacted in 2011 that ended collective bargaining rights for many public employees unions.
“One of the things that took effect this year, even though Act 10 does not yet apply to county employees, is we bargained a contract for 2013 where [county employees must] start contributing to retirement accounts,” Hendrick said. “We had to phase that in in agreements with our unions, so employees then have less money to take home so were aware of that for 2013.”
Hendrick said the county board makes the decision every two years whether to raise or not raise the county board salary. County supervisors currently make $8,200 a year, he said.
Hendrick added he hopes the county will be able to raise employee pay in the future.
“We’re hopeful that by 2016, if the economy is better, the town might be able to afford increases for county employees,” Hendrick said. “We also hope, depending on how the elections go, the state will change its mind and give us the option to collectively bargain with employees in the future.”
Sargent said the full county board has not yet voted on the measure. She said the committee’s recommendation to the board is the first step in the process, and it will go before the full board soon. Sargent said she believes the county board will vote on the measure at their next meeting, and she said it will likely pass.
“We don’t think we deserve special treatment,” Sargent said. “And we wouldn’t give ourselves a raise if we can’t give [county employees] one.”