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Analysis says HC elected officials’ salaries lower than other counties

Kaitlyn Clay, Staff Writer, [email protected]

A problem brought to light by county recorder Debbie Dennison, which has been a discussion during numerous council meetings lately, is that several Harrison County elected officials are being underpaid.

At the council meeting on Jan. 25, a request was presented to the councilmembers from Dennison for a salary raise based on her increase in work, noting she had to process over 1,000 more documents in 2020 than in 2019. She had also said she had compared her salary with that of other recorders in neighboring counties and she falls well below others.

Her request was asking that she be allowed to move money, about $2,300, from the recorder’s perpetuation fund to go toward her and her first deputy’s salaries in order to increase them.

In June 2020, Waggoner, Irwin, Scheele and Associates Inc., a consulting firm hired by the county, prepared an external salary analysis giving the low, midpoint and high salaries or hourly rates of government employees in 20 neighboring counties and how they compared to the salaries in Harrison County.

The Harrison County recorder’s salary, according to the analysis, is $38,649. The external low salary for this position is $39,792. Only two other counties, Crawford and Washington, fell below Harrison in this position’s salary at $27,160 and $37,449, respectively.

This seems to be the case for other elected official positions as well, not just Dennison’s.

Other elected official positions that fall below the external low salary point include the assessor, clerk and treasurer.

Also according to the analysis, the Harrison County auditor’s salary falls between the low and midpoint salaries. The sheriff’s position falls between the midpoint and external high. The coroner and all county commissioners and council members’ salaries are above the external high salary.

The external high salary for county commissioners is $23,400, and Harrison County commissioners currently make $26,738. The external high salary for council members is $9,638, and Harrison County council members currently make $13,449.

According to councilwoman Holli Castetter at the Feb. 8 council meeting, to bring each of those positions that fall below the low salary — assessor, clerk, recorder, treasurer and five deputies — to the low salary point would cost the county $3,843. Covering this cost and bringing those salaries up to that low salary is something she had suggested the council make a motion on at the meeting that evening.

However, according to county Auditor Chad Shireman, the council is not legally allowed to change an elected official’s salary throughout the year; rather, this is something that can only be done during the budget period.

Because of this, the council unanimously declined Dennison’s request, but all agreed this should be something to look deeper into when they examine the budget for next year.

Council president Donnie Hussung said he felt strongly that if they are to look at raising the recorder’s salary, all elected positions that fall below the low range should be considered so they are not “picking and choosing.”

Council member Kyle Nix and Castetter both echoed that sentiment. Castetter even noted she would like to somehow see the county be able to get all employees, not just elected officials, to the external midpoint salary at some point, which, according to the salary analysis, would cost about $400,000.

“We have done three of these studies in the past 10 years and spent tens of thousands of dollars for them to continually show we are behind,” Nix said at the Feb. 8 council meeting. “You think we would eventually catch on. This is definitely something we will look into when it is time for the budget for next year.”

The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Monday at 7 p.m. at the government center in Corydon.