Converse County’s elected officials were recently tasked with presenting a unified plan for setting salaries for their positions for the next four years – a quirky situation in which elected officials cannot have changes in their pay during their terms in office so those have to be set before the election.

Thus, the elected officials – clerk, treasurer, assessor, clerk of district court, county attorney and sheriff – have the dubious task of figuring out what they should make for the next four years should they get re-elected or what their replacements will make if voters decide to kick them out of office. Of course, in Converse County, those already in office tend to get re-elected most often.

Last week, the group (without the county attorney or county coroner – whose pay is different than all the rest) returned to the Converse County Commission table to suggest this plan: an 8.5% increase in 2023 and a 5% increase in each year after that for elected officials.

Treasurer Joel Schell, noting the inflation rate for the last year was 8.5%, said the group had discussed everything from 0% to 10% but “had trouble distancing our salaries from (our) employees” because the county salary schedule sets deputy administrator and other wages as percentages of the elected salaries.

Currently, Wyoming law caps county elected officials, except attorney and coroner, at $100,000 a year. Converse County is one of four counties that sets the pay at the maximum; the others are Teton, Sweetwater and Campbell.

Schell noted the inflation rate has hit everyone hard. “If we don’t do these adjustments right now, then it’s the equivalent of a 10% pay cut.”

Plus, the type of inflation right now is concerning, he said, because it is hitting the food, transportation and housing sectors, so that is affecting employees who are going to need wage increases to keep.

On top of that, Schell and other elected officials said, is the comparable salaries being paid in the private sector and the difficulty in keeping employees.

An 8.5% increase this year equates to $8,500 for each elected official, but does not mean the same for other employees, especially those making entry-level wages, some of the commissioners pointed out. They also noted the 5% increase each year after is cumulative, building on the raise of the previous year.

Commissioners Tony Lehner and Mike Colling said they empathize with the inflation argument but said that is a pretty big increase in salaries for the county. Lehner said he calculated that elected officials would be making $125,602 a year at the end of the four years in office, up 25.6%.

Commission Chairman Jim Willox said, “No doubt we’re a busy county” and that is only likely to get busier during the next four years, but told the group he was worried about the lower paid county employees who may be “hardest pressed” and he would be inclined to do more for them.

He also assured those in the room that the county commissioner salaries, currently at $37,800 to $38,750, would not be increasing to $100,000 even though state law now allows for that as well.

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