CENTERVILLE — The Appanoose County Board of Supervisors slashed proposed wage increases for elected officials on Monday, citing concerns from constituents over property taxes.

“It’s really tough in today’s climate, especially when we’re hearing from the farmers on their taxes and things like that,” new supervisor Jeff Kulmatycki said. “... We’re probably looking at cutting budgets.”

Each year through a process established by Iowa Code, a compensation board assembled by the supervisors and made up of citizens delivers a recommendation on salary increases for elected officials.

Members of that board lobbied Monday for supervisors to adopt their recommended levels to help the county get closer to being equitable with similarly sized counties.

“We reviewed in detail each of the salaries and also compared them to the state, and we are woefully behind in trying to have an element of equity in the reimbursements to our elected officials,” compensation board member Ray Tresemer said.

When the discussion amongst supervisors seemed clear the recommendations would see a cut, compensation board member Mike Craver asked for no more than a 50 percent reduction. He warned that a larger cut would only cause the county to “fall further behind all these other counties.”

Supervisor chairperson Linda Demry said she agreed the county was behind on salaries, but that the supervisors have a fiduciary responsibility for the county’s taxpayers and budget.

“Our diligence is to determine what we can afford taxpayer-wise,” she said. “Our issue this year, of course, is the farmland that went 30% for all the farmers. Plus with COVID, and the revenue being short, that’s where we stand. It’s a hard decision.”

Supervisor Mark McGill, a farmer, first made the recommendation to cut the proposal by 75%, citing importance to ensure the supervisors won’t need to raise taxes.

“I am a farmer, landowner and everything else, and yes, we have taken a hit and to raise the levy again would be devastating to lots of folks,” McGill said.

Supervisors voted 2-1 to cut the recommended salary increases by 75%, with Kulmatycki voting in opposition.

With the cut, elected officials would see the following yearly salary increases, beginning July 1: supervisors up $375, sheriff up $2,500, attorney up $3,000, treasurer up $1,125, auditor up $1,625 and recorder up $1,125.

In other action:

• The new jail and law enforcement center is expected to go out for bid in March. Supervisors approved the awarding of civil engineer services to Hall Engineering of Centerville.

• Supervisors approved hiring Servpro to clean mold from the county’s DHS building.

• Road conditions were discussed following two winter storm events and a fatal accident on Highway J46. Dan Furlin Jr. said he felt conditions on Highway J46 particularly could have been better following the winter storm, citing the Wayne County portion of the highway was clear and the Appanoose County portion was not. Demry requested county engineer Brad Skinner look into the county’s snow removal strategies and sand/salt mixtures. Per county ordinance, secondary roads only clear roads of snow and ice between 4 a.m. and 5 p.m. because they don’t have the personnel for a second shift.

• An interfund loan was approved for $450,000 to begin paying expenses for the new jail and law enforcement center. It will be repaid once bonds are issued in March. The project is being funded through local option sales tax.

Kyle Ocker is the group editor of the Ottumwa Courier and the Oskaloosa Herald. He can be reached at kocker@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.

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Kyle Ocker is a Centerville native and award-winning multimedia journalist. Kyle is currently the first vice president of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and vice president of the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association.

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