Salaries are set for next year for Benton County employees

Supervisors act on compensation board’s recommendation

By Jim Magdefrau

VINTON – A big piece of the county budget for next year was dealt with when the Benton County Board of Supervisors set the salaries for elected officials, at the Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023, meeting of the board.

The board was acting on the recommendation of the Benton County Compensation Board, who met earlier in the month. They recommended an increase of 8.3 percent for the attorney, auditor, treasurer, sheriff and recorder.

“So far, we’ve agreed to disagree,” observes Supervisor Richard Primmer. He then proposed an across-the-board increase of 5 percent. The action did not get a second and failed.

The board voted for an increase of 7 percent across the board on a motion by Chairman Tracy Seeman.

Primmer said, “We’ve got to watch what we’re dinging these taxpayers for.” He asked, “Can we afford to keep doing this?” He said the 5 percent he proposed would keep up with inflationary trends, but 7 percent would put the county above that.

It was approved, 2-1, with Primmer opposed.

They then unanimously approved an increase of 5 percent for non-elected, non-union and non-commissioned, non-contracted employees, with a few deviations in that for transportation, Deb Cummings of secondary roads, information technology and maintenance.

Health board

The public health board met with the supervisors at the start of the meeting to go over funding and contract options. Braxton Morrison and Dr. Maggie Mangold were there for the health board, along with Barb Greenlee. Mangold talked about funding sources for public health. She explained how public health has evolved over the past several decades, and what the 10 essential functions are for public health. Population health functions are things that affect everyone in the community, such as access and where to hold a vaccine clinic. Non-population health functions are things that affect one person, such as home health.

The supervisors appoint the five members of the public health board. The county provides tax funds directly to Virginia Gay Hospital. Virginia Gay is the subcontractor for public health functions. The health board serves in an advisory role, since they don’t have direct control of those funds.

Katie Cox is the public health director. She works part-time in public health and part-time with Virginia Gay.

Most of the money comes from local health public services grant. This comes from the state and is based on the age of the community and other calculations. They now have strict guidelines on how the money is spent. Money can’t be spent on non-population health anymore. The state will still give money, but it has to be spent on things that affect everyone in the community. The board of health applies every year for that grant.

The contract between Virginia Gay and Benton County goes back to 1994. It has not be reviewed for a long time, Mangold said. Public health has changed. It’s past time to review the contract and look at what other counties are doing. Mangold stressed the county needs to decide what they want public health to look like.

The health board and supervisors plan to work on the contract.

Volunteer program

Roxanne Fuller, executive director for Benton County Volunteer Program, went over the volunteer budget. They have an eight-member volunteer board that meets quarterly. The chair is Connie Barnes. Vice chair is Jan Kendall. They have three employees and just under 50 volunteers. They have 20 drivers. They began in 1974 as the RSVP program. In 2001, the RSVP became the volunteer program. They are a United Way agency. She said volunteerism promotes self worth. They also have a food program. The project group has 25 people, such as the Angel Tree.

The county contributes $20,000 annually to the program. Belle Plaine provides office space.

She said the United Way of East Central Iowa is looking at a grant for a 55-plus program. They are looking to merge with the volunteer program in order to grow and serve all of the people they can. United Way already has this program in Jones County. They are starting one in Iowa and they already have on in Linn County. They are looking at an additional office in Vinton.

Paralegal talk

The supervisors and County Attorney Ray Lough took up a topic from the day before on hiring of a paralegal. Lough had proposed the hiring of Allaina Bennett-Casali. Supervisor Primmer had concerns about the experience the candidate had.

They planned to meet in closed session, but Primmer wanted the human resources director to be at the meeting. She was not at the meeting.

Lough pointed out an attorney general opinion regarding hiring of employees. He said the role of the supervisors is to provide funding to departments. The departments have the sole authority to hire and fire its own people. He stressed he wants the prospective employee to start working. She has already worked voluntarily. “This is somebody who really wants this job and is ready to go to work,” Lough told the board.

They then went into closed session. No action was taken.

Addition

Friday, Jan. 27, 2023 meeting.

The supervisors met again with Lough on Friday afternoon and unanimously approved a salary of $34,000 for Allaina Bennett-Casali, retroactive to Jan. 23, 2023, with one week of sick leave.

Board meeting

Friday meeting

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