The Lincoln County commissioners approved a 12% increase in base salary for county elected officials Monday following an extended discussion.  

The base salary, which is set every four years, applies to future years — from 2023-27 — for the commissioners, attorney, county clerk, treasurer, assessor, sheriff, register of deeds, surveyor, public defender and clerk of the district court.

The commissioners discussed the situation for about a half-hour — one of their longest discussions of the new year.

The current base amount is $66,000. The increase raises the base to nearly $75,000.

According to a report from the Nebraska Association of County Officials (NACO), salaries in Lincoln County were below the norm of similar-size counties by about that much. In larger counties, primarily those around Lincoln and Omaha, NACO recommended a much higher base– around $95,000.

Commissioner Joe Hewgley, who was part of the NACO committee that made comparisons and recommendations, said the NACO recommendations were, in his mind, “very solid.”

Hewgley added that the raise is not as dramatic as it might seem at first, because officials have received 1% – 2% cost-of-living raises each year for four years, over and above the base.

Still, the raises are significant.

The salary of the county treasurer, for instance, will increase from $72,700 this year (2022) to $78,540 in 2023, when the increase takes effect. Salaries will increase by 3% a year after that. 

The salary of the county attorney will go up from $110,700 this year to $119,700 in 2023.

The salary of the commissioners will increase by the largest percentage, from $27,289 this year to $37,400 in 2023. The sharper increase is because the commissioners did not take any raise four years ago.

Commissioner Micaela Wuehler said it is important to attract good candidates to positions by offering a comparable salary. She said overall, government is losing good employees to private business. She said even after COLA raises are handed out during the next four years, the highest paid county employees still won’t be paid at the top level.

“None of our county employees are greedy,” Wuehler said. “None of them felt that they needed to be paid at the top end.”  

The county commissioners are regarded as a half-time position, although Hewgley said he spends about 30 hours a week on commissioner business. Commissioner Chris Bruns said he spends about 40 hours a week, which is what it takes to do the job. Bruns said he didn’t run for office for the money, however.

Hewgley, a fiscal conservative who has held office for 30 years, has always insisted that salaries for county officials be set below the mid-point. On Monday, he stressed that elected officials are public servants. However, after more discussion, he agreed to follow the other commissioners and not object to the raises.

“It might be time,” he said.

The county surveyor is considered a quarter-time job. On the other end of the scale, the county sheriff receives an extra 40% for overseeing the jail.

The county clerk receives 24% more than the base because of extra responsibilities – she takes ongoing training, has budget-making authority and takes charge of elections.

In addition to their salaries, county elected officials receive retirement benefits and family health insurance coverage as members of the employee group plan.

Salary comparison, from 2022 to 2023:

  • Commissioner – $27,890 – 37,400.
  • County Attorney – $110,720 – 119,680.
  • Sheriff w/ jail administration – $86,500 – 104,720.
  • Clerk w/election duties – $79,580 – 92,752.
  • Treasurer – $72,765 – $78,540.
  • Assessor – $72,765 – $78,540.
  • Clerk of District Court – $69,200 — 78,540.
  • Register of Deeds – $69,200 – 74,800.
  • Public Defender — $69,200 – 74,800.
  • County Surveyor –$15,098 – 18,700. 

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