Anything goes when public officials have no challengers

    Former GOP congresswoman Anne Northup once said, “A large family and Democrats have a lot in common: Teenagers and Democrats are always happy spending other people’s money.” She should have added her own party to that list, at least in Crawford County.

    If you missed it a few weeks a back, Crawford County’s elected officials—all Republicans—recently voted themselves a 20 percent pay raise. You read that right—a 20 percent pay raise.
    But let’s give a little credit where credit is due. County Clerk John Martin, the county’s chief budget official, voted against it. He was the only one to do so.
    Taxpayers shouldn’t be that surprised by their elected officials’ action, mortified perhaps, but not surprised. After all, not one single county official on this week’s ballot had any competition and only one faced a challenge in the August primary.
    What was to stop them from voting for a 20 percent salary increase? Fear of losing their jobs? Certainly not. And by the next time they face the voters again, it will have all been forgotten. It’s a sad way to run a county government, or any government for that matter.
    And they voted for this huge pay increase after Martin had warned them not to, that the budget might not be able to handle it.
    “That is not feasible,” Martin told his fellow Republicans. “If we start overspending money here, we will have to find money elsewhere. Do what you will, just know when we come to budgeting time, there’s a finite amount of cash.”
    The room was full of Republicans. Aren’t they supposed to be conservative when it comes to taxing and spending? Let’s not forget, those same Republicans asked the voters for a tax increase in 2018. When will they want more money?
    Maybe they deserved a raise. Maybe they’re not making a decent living. You be the judge.
    Currently, the annual salary is $47,000 for the clerk, treasurer, collector, public administrator, and recorder, all paid from the General Revenue Fund. The assessor’s salary is paid from a separate fund. With a 20 percent increase, each will see an additional $9,400 in salary annually. That will total $47,000 for the General Revenue Fund.
    The presiding commissioner’s salary is $34,380. A 20 percent increase will add $6,876 to that amount. Associate commissioners make $32,380 and will increase by $6,476. The total increase to the county budget for commissioners will be $19,828.
    The coroner will see an additional $3,800 per year. The total cost to the county’s General Revenue Fund in salary alone for the 20 percent raise will be $71,428. And that’s every year, from now on, unless they vote to lower their own salaries. No way that’s going to happen.
    As the budget officer, Martin could get a little payback in January. There’s certainly nothing stopping him from cutting each office holder’s budget by the same amount they increased their salaries. Then they, not him, can determine how to operate with the same amount of funds they were already receiving instead of taking more from the taxpayers. Let’s not hold our breath.
    It’s only our money, right? After all, as one of the office holders put it, “We’re not sitting here trying to be greedy and I hope no one gets that impression.”
    Too late.