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Deschutes County commissioners vote 2-1 for nearly $14K increase in their yearly salary

(Update: Adding video, comments from all three commissioners)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Deschutes County commissioners on Wednesday approved a yearly increase for their positions of $13,727, raising their annual salary from $111,422 to $125,149.

In a 2-1 vote, with Commissioner Phil Chang opposed, commissioners approved the salary increase, Chang and fellow Commissioner Patti Adair confirmed Friday. Colleague Tony DeBone also approved the raise.

The county has a Compensation Board which originally recommended the raise for commissioners. All three commissioners are on that board.

"There are over 1,000 employees at the county, and they don't have access to a 12.3% increase," Chang told NewsChannel 21.

According to Adair, the salary increase is 8% for two years, with Budget Committee citizens agreeing to contribute another 4% to cost-of-living-adjustments this year. Adair also pointed out that no elected county officials were given a raise for the fiscal year that began July 1, 2020.

Chang elaborated on why he didn't vote in favor of a raise for himself.

"I don't feel like it's right for the county commissioners to take a much larger proportionately pay increase than all of our workers, who are struggling to continue to live in this community," he said.

The two other county commissioners voted in favor of a pay increase from $111,000 to $125,000 for the new fiscal year that begins July 1.

DeBone says he's voted against salary increases before: "I have been in a spot where it was suggested in the past that we do get a salary adjustment, and I've voted against it. So I've got history of voting against increases in salary."

DeBone also says county commissioners are the only officials who set their own salaries, as they also set salaries for all 1,200 county employees.

The salaries they vote to approve also include the sheriff, treasurer and district attorney.

"We look at a state or industry-level analysis for all categories and classifications," DeBone said. "So the compensation philosophy is just above a median salary."

Chang, along with DeBone, say the job of county commissioners takes about 50-60 hours of work a week.

Commissioner Patti Adair, who also voted for the pay raise, pointed out that all elected county officials were given no raise for the 2020-21 fiscal year, due to the pandemic.

Adair added that she's saving the county $27,000 this year alone for opting out of her PERS retirement funding.

I asked Chang about Adair opting out, and if he felt that was a fair reason for the raise now. He disagreed with Adair: "We shouldn't be trying to make up for her opting out of PERS by giving her such a substantial pay increase."

Chang said he rejected the raise in his salary, but is taking the 4% Cost of Living Adjustment to his salary, or a $4456.88 increase, which would put him at $115,878.88 a year.

"At this time, when we're trying to constrain spending and live within our means in an ever tighter budget at the county, I cannot justify us getting a 12.3% pay increase," Chang said.

The raise still has to be considered by the county Budget Committee (three citizens and the three commissioners), and is expected to be approved.

Pay hikes also were recommended for others, including the sheriff, treasurer and district attorney.

Article Topic Follows: Government-politics

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Blake Mayfield

Blake Mayfield is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Blake here.


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