The Sarpy County election commissioner and his deputy will get a 26 percent pay raise on Jan. 1.
Election Commissioner Wayne Bena’s annual base salary will jump from $63,000 to $80,000, a figure that includes a $5,000 stipend for his work as jury commissioner. Deputy Election Commissioner Deb Davis’ salary will rise from $56,700 to $72,000, which includes $4,500 for being deputy jury commissioner.
Why such a big raise? Karen Buche, Sarpy County human resources director, said it is because Bena, an appointed official, has been doing the work of a department head for the salary of a deputy.
To determine the position’s salary, Bena and Buche wrote a job description and scored it as though it were an elected position.
“I think (Bena) is worth more than that,” Sarpy County Board Chairman Jim Warren said. “He runs that place extremely well, and he’s very tight with taxpayer dollars.”
Other board members agreed, but they parted ways on setting the position’s annual cost-of-living raise. As proposed, the election commissioner would get an annual raise pegged to the Midwest consumer price index, so long as that rate was not less than 2.5 percent and not more than 4.5 percent.
Warren and board member Don Kelly of Papillion objected because this arrangement guarantees an annual raise — something few county employees or private-sector workers see.
“The people who pay the bills — the taxpayers — aren’t getting guaranteed raises over the next four years,” Kelly said.
Proposals to eliminate a minimum guaranteed raise failed, however.
Board member Tom Richards of Bellevue supported the original plan, noting that Bena’s many accomplishments over the past four years have saved the county a significant amount of money.
“Wayne runs it like a business,” he said.
Ultimately, the County Board approved, 4-0, a proposal to tighten the range of the cost-of-living adjustment — Bena’s annual raise will be no less than 1 percent but no greater than 3.5 percent.
The salaries of other elected officials will be set in the coming weeks. Warren wants them to agree to work with Buche on a salary study for their positions, too.
“Some of them are probably underpaid,” he said. “Some are probably overpaid. That’s what (a salary study) will show us.”