Sheriff and County District Attorney Recommend Salaries – Albert Lea Tribune
The sheriff and the Freeborn County lawyer pushed for an increase in their wages Tuesday during an annual presentation to the Council of Commissioners.
While the council approves one percent cost of living increases for other county employees, state law requires it to approve an exact salary figure each year for elected officials, including them- same.
The board no longer approves a salary figure for the Freeborn County Recorder and Auditor-Treasurer as those positions are now appointed.
In his presentation Tuesday, county attorney David Walker recommended an increase in his salary to $ 129,000 from $ 122,520.
He said he doesn’t recommend a raise every year – last year he recommended a freeze on his salary due to many unknowns, including the pandemic and property taxes.
It showed a comparison of 11 other counties in the state within 5,000 Freeborn County residents and the salaries of their county attorneys. He said the average salary was $ 129,545, while the median salary was $ 128,702. The highest salary was in Steele County at $ 150,407 and the lowest salary at $ 115,544.
Walker also referred to the expected increase in the cost of living of more than 5% expected this year for Social Security and noted that as prices rise, wages lose value. He said he thought it made sense to look at this increase in the cost of living, and he also looked at the county’s economy.
He said he believed the county was strong and came out of the pandemic even stronger than anyone expected.
He presented information in a memo to the commissioners highlighting his performance over the past year, including his leadership during the pandemic, four jury trials, convictions in two cases in appellate courts, as well as the setting in place of tort prosecution agreements with small county communities, further work on opioid litigation, conviction for electoral fraud, representation of the sheriff in a show cause order initiated by attorney for Albert Lea who has been made redundant, among others.
Commissioner Brad Edwin said that while he recognizes the importance of comparing similar counties, he also needs to be aware of what taxpayers can afford. He referred to continued increases in the levy as property values have increased and also referred to an aging tax base and shrinking businesses.
“I’m not saying no, we can’t do that – I’m saying we really need to think about these things and how it affects the people who pay for these things,” Edwin said.
Sheriff Kurt Freitag, who this year earns $ 119,225, recommended an increase to $ 127,642.
Freitag said he looked at two comparable groups – one of the 6th District sheriffs and the other of 11 similarly sized counties.
He said he took the average salary of the two groups – $ 123,925 – and then added a 3% increase in the cost of living, which took it to $ 127,642.
In 2020, he asked for a half a percent raise because that is what the bargaining units received, and it was a more difficult year for the county.
In his note to commissioners, he highlighted some of his work over the past year, including the implementation of a ‘neck-from-the-neck’ check for all accredited MPs, continually amending the COVID-19 plan to prison as more knowledge about virus mitigation became available, deploying assistants to Line 3 protests without loss or damage to property or injury, increased revenue streams, among others.
He supervises nearly 90 people.
Commissioner Ted Herman asked if the commissioners could wait until the end of union negotiations to decide on the salaries of elected officials.
Edwin, Herman and Dan Belshan also expressed during the discussion on Commissioners’ salaries that they were in favor of no increase.
Commissioners will vote to set salaries at the November 30 meeting and may have further discussions on the issue at a workshop on November 9 ahead of the meeting.