By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
A month after voting down a pay raise for Seward County’s register of deeds, county commissioners Tuesday approved a $5,500 hike in Cynthia Sallaska’s salary.
In December 2008, Sallaska came to the commission asking for a raise from her current rate $43,500 to $55,000. The board, at that time, voted 3-2 to deny the increase.
Tuesday, the item was brought back before the commission by vice chairman C.J. Wettstein.
“She had taken on the extra work of the passport fees,” he began.
“Last week, we had that she’d averaged an additional income of about $15,000 a year in the last seven years for the passport fees.”
Wettstein added the county received a letter noting Sallaska’s office received about $31,000 in passport fees in 2008.
“To me, this is a department head that is trying to do things,” he said. “The register of deeds isn’t required to do the passports. This is a department head and her office taking on extra things to not only increase income for Seward County but rely on less tax dollars that our taxpayers are having to do.”
Wettstein initially made a motion to increase the salary of the register of deeds in the amount of $11,500.
“This increase in salary is directly tied to the extra job of doing passports and the continuing of doing the passports and the generation of enough funds to pay for the increase in salary,” he said. “This increase in salary has to come out of the existing 2009 budget for the register of deeds.”
Commissioner Jim Rice talked about the passport service Sallaska’s office provides.
“If she decided not to do those passports, I wonder where that service might be picked up and who would provide that,” he said. “I doubt that they would provide it free of charge.”
Chairman Joyce Hibler said while she was agreeable to a pay raise, the $11,500 figure Sallaska was asking for was a bit steep.
“I think we need to do a survey of all the register of deeds around us,” she said. “Who in this day and age gets $1,000 a month raise? I don’t mind giving her a raise, but more like $100 a month. I just think $1,000 is high.”
Hibler noted the current situation with a struggling economy and being unsure of what is going to happen with the county’s budget as other factors against the raise.
“I’m not against giving her a raise,” she said. “I just about fell over when she asked for $12,000. I just think that’s a lot. She only has three employees. They do a good job. I just think we need to do a survey of the other register of deeds and how many employees they have and the things they do. We have a step and grade. We worked hard to place that in Seward County.”
County clerk Stacia Long explained where the figures for those who are voted into office come from.
“They didn’t just dream up these figures for the elected officials to make,” she said. “It was done, and you paid quite a bit of money doing the step and grade plan with Austin Peters. What was done was the duties of each office and each position was a step. They were assessed against other counties, and they were assessed against other positions within the city of like responsibilities.”
Long added she believes elected officials are not put in place to create revenue.
“We are here to run our office and do our statutory duties,” she said.
The motion for the $11,500 raise failed 3-2 with commissioner Toby Hale and Wettstein voting for it.
Rice then made a motion to increase Sallaska’s salary by $5,500 a year effective Feb. 1. The board voted 4-1 with commissioner Steve Eisenhauer voting against the motion to approve the raise.