Friday, March 16, 2007

Heer misses the mark

County auditor Jerry Heer is wrong, wrong, wrong to to suggest that city and county salaries for elected officials should be the same just because...actually, it's unclear why he thinks they should be the same.

Supervisors now make $50,874 annually and aldermen make $71,506. The county exec makes $129,611 and the mayor is paid $143,833, according to the JS.

The city and the county are not similar, so that can't be a factor in Heer's analysis. The county is much larger than the city geographically and in population. The city is much poorer than the county as a whole.

Aldermen and county supervisors also have very different duties, so those things aren't comparable, either. Being alderman is a full-time job. There are tons and tons of constitutents calls to handle in addition to committee work.

That just isn't true at the county, where five constituent calls on a single topic is a lot. Being a county supervisor leaves plenty of time for other pursuits. Former Supervisor Tom Bailey was a full-time lawyer and part-time supervisor; former County Supervisor Tony Zielinski -- now an alderman -- actually got his law degree at Marquette while he was a county supervisor.

Heer, in a report issued yesterday, says:

As we noted in our previous two reports, salary surveys of this nature can make for interesting general comparisons between different jurisdictions. However, it must be stressed that they do not take into account numerous and significant factors that may limit the ability to make meaningful direct comparisons between jurisdictions.

Yet Heer, who works for the County Board, also says City of Milwaukee salaries are near the average of those in communities surveyed so that's what county officials should get, too. That's it -- the only justification he offers.

Does he believe that salaries for city and county elected officials should be similar because they all are elected to four-year terms?

Milwaukee School Board members are elected to four-year terms, too. They are paid a whopping $18,121 annually, and do not have aides or offices. Should those salaries be raised to $71,506? Should the pay for aldermen and county supervisors be reduced to $18,121?

Maybe county supervisors deserve a raise. Maybe they don't. If they do, they should get them. But let's have some legitimate job studies to make legitimate comparisons.

To suggest that county electeds should get more money because others get more money -- no matter how similar or different the job duties are -- is just unfair to the people paying the bills.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

And his study conveniently doesn't compare size of boards -- and many of the counties where members make more have boards of as few as five members, a fourth the size of ours, so each member covers much more territory and takes many more calls from many more constituents.

If our board wants to cut its size, if our supervisors want to take on more work, we can talk about paying them more.

For now, no way -- and I frankly resent that our supervisors went along with this flawed study for their benefit, not ours. What other work could our auditor have been doing on my tax dollar in the time spent on this?

I feel a call to my supervisor coming . . . and it will be the second call in several years to him, as the county has so little to do with my life -- while I am contact with my alderman far more often. And I hear from my alderman's office almost weekly with emailed reports to our neighborhood about our issues, and our alderman works hard to resolve those issues on a daily basis.

WatchdogMilwaukee.com said...

Gretchen,
You know that the amount that Sups work varies widely. Are there Sups that are underpaid? Yes. Are there Sups that are WAY WAY overpaid? Again, YES.

I don't have the answer to how to pay the work horses more than the lazy ones and I couldn't figure it out when I was down there. (Maybe a per diem?)

As for Alderman, yes they get more calls but the calls to Sups, from info I've heard from City hall, are more important to the lives of constituents.

An Alderman takes more mundane calls like complaints about garbage pickups.