Dane County approves pay raises for elected officials to skirt Act 10

By Ryan Ekvall | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. — The Dane County Board of Supervisors on Monday passed substantial pay increases for the county sheriff and clerk of courts over the next four years.

The pay increases are meant to “partially offset the required (Wisconsin Retirement System) contribution” under Act 10, according to the resolution, which passed on a voice vote.

Most government employees in Wisconsin are now restricted to base pay increases to the rate of inflation. In 2014, most state government employees received a 1 percent pay increase.

The Dane County board approved pay increases for the sheriff and clerk of courts.

The Dane County board, however, passed a 5.75 percent salary increase for the county sheriff and a 6.5 percent salary increase for the clerk of courts for 2015. Both the sheriff and the clerk of courts would receive additional 1.25 percent pay raises in 2016 and 2 percent pay hikes in 2017 and 2018.

Sheriff Dave Mahoney makes $131,300, and Clerk of Courts Carlo Esqueda makes $94,267. Both are among the top 5 percent of income earners in Wisconsin, according to Department of Revenue statistics.

In 2011, Mahoney made $120,167, and Esqueda made $86,268. Starting in 2016, the sheriff could take home more than Wisconsin’s attorney general, who earns $140,147. Mahoney is one of the highest earning sheriffs in Wisconsin, second only to Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.

Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining overhaul known as Act 10 required government employees to contribute to their pension funds. Prior to Walker’s reform, taxpayers paid for both the employer and employee share of pension contributions.

Those changes, among others required by Act 10, have saved Wisconsin taxpayers $2 billion since its enactment in 2011.

But Dane County taxpayers haven’t shared in the savings at the local level.

County Supervisor Sharon Corrigan said the county previously took steps to protect its other workers from losses in take-home pay due to the pension contribution requirement.

Because the salary of elected officials must be set prior to elections, this is the county’s first chance to do the same for the sheriff and clerk of courts.

“We value our employees,” said Corrigan. “We didn’t want to see them take a pay cut on this.”

While these pay increases will cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars over the next four years, one county supervisor says it signals millions of dollars in additional employee expenses on the horizon.

“It’s a little frustrating to me that we’re telling the sheriff ‘you’re going to get a 2 percent raise’ and then he turns around and says he won’t take the raise unless his employees get the same raise,” said Supervisor Ronn Ferrell. “That tells me we’re telling the unions you’re going to get a 2 percent raise.”

That would cost Dane County taxpayers a minimum of $6 million in additional labor costs in the next contract. Dane County is $250 million in debt.

“We have a lot of hard-working employees here. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be paid fairly. It’s just the taxpayers seem to be forgotten in this equation,” he said.

Here’s the new salary schedule for the sheriff and court of clerks:

Contact Ryan Ekvall at rekvall@watchdog.org, 608-257-1382 or follow him on Twitter @Nockian.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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