The salaries of elected official are set by state law. Until the state legislature passed a 2016 law raising their pay, most Butler County elected office holders hadn’t received a raise in eight years.
MORE: Butler County merit plan to save $122.3 million over 10 years
The county has made several cost-cutting moves since the Great Recession. In 2008, the county employed 2,474 people who were paid a total of $103 million. Last year there were 1,993 employees with a total salary of $95.8 million, according to this newspaper’s analysis.
One of the ways Butler County has reined in spending of public employee salaries, which are paid with your tax dollars, has been its new merit pay program. Adopted by a majority of the county’s departments, the program gives employees who perform well enough a boost to their base and the rest of a raise in lump sums.
Butler County is on course to save $122.3 million over 10 years thanks to that program and other personnel changes, according to Administrator Charlie Young.
“Particularly in 2017 and 2018 we have seen across-the-county compliance with and support for the compensation plan,” he said.
Young himself is the county’s highest paid government employee. With a recent raise, his salary is $165,160.
The three Butler County commissioners, who are Young’s bosses, make considerably less than Young at $84,866 each. Due to election cycles, Commissioner Cindy Carpenter did not get her raise yet, so her salary is $76,976.
Young has day-to-day responsibilities for the $431 million county budget and all county facilities and departments under the commissioners’ direct control. He has also taken on additional duties, however, as commissioners chose not to replace some management positions, which saved the county about $257,218.
“He’s really been a huge, huge asset to the board, to the county,” Commissioner Don Dixon said of Young. “I’ve worked with a number of good administrators and I’ve never worked with one as good as he is.”
Young and others took on more responsibility when other employees’ jobs were not filled after their departures. Those include: Randy Quisenberry, former director of assets and purchasing; Ron Davis, former airport manager; Jim Davis, former Human Resources Director; and Tracy Howard, former Job & Family Services Director of Business Operations.
The positions held by Quisenberry, Howard and Ron Davis have not been replaced, saving the county approximately $257,218, Laurie Murphy, the new Human Resources director is also making about $10,000 less than Jim Davis. Those savings are offset slightly by some pay raises other department heads like David Fehr — who now oversees the county airport — got for the added responsibility. The commissioners gave Fehr a $5,000 increase in October bringing him up to $96,616.
Sheriff Richard Jones earned $104,397 last year, which is $32,257 less than Chief Deputy Tony Dwyer ($136,654) and $16,091 less than Major Mike Craft.
While lawmakers decide Jones’ compensation, he is in charge of setting salaries for his top people.
“If they weren’t worth the money, I wouldn’t be giving pay raises. I determine that and I determine that alone,” Jones said. “I have the largest law enforcement agency in the county. We have several hundred employees. My budget is 50 percent of the general fund, and there’s a lot of responsibility that goes with that.”
Butler County Treasurer Nancy Nix said the chief deputies in the elected officials’ offices make more because they are running the day-to-day operations.
Nix’s own chief deputy, Lori Sullivan, made $14,135 more than Nix did last year.
“The people that are chief deputies are there day-in-and-day-out, responsible for the daily management … I am completely happy Lori makes $14,000 more than I do because she is worth every penny,” Nix said.
Scott Rasmus, executive director of the Mental Health and Addiction Services Board, is the county’s second-highest paid employee in the county at $137,216. His salary is paid through the mental health levy approved by voters.
Barbara Desmond, president of the Mental Health and Addiction Services Board said Rasmus’ salary was set to be commensurate with his experience, skills and responsibilities, after the two groups merged in 2015, when he made $121,851.
“He is uniquely qualified,” she said. “When we combined, that put a whole lot more on Scott to do. Our decision for coming up with what to pay him was based on the board association salary list of what other people were paid versus Scott’s highly qualified status.”