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Conference board OKs assessor’s budget on split vote

Wage increase pared down to be in line with other county employees

The Conference Board of Hamilton County declined to approve a 4 percent wage increase for staff in the Hamilton County assessor’s office, but decided on a split vote to approve a 2.75 percent increase — the same amount approved for other county workers — and added a stipend for the chief deputy assessor.

The board met Tuesday in the Board of Supervisors conference room. The board is composed of the supervisors, mayors from around the county, and representatives of the county’s school boards. The group meets to approve the assessor’s budget for the coming year and after a public hearing, acts on adopting the budget.

Assessor Kevin Bahrenfuss presented his budget and proposed the 4 percent wage hike for himself and assistant assessor Lindsay Burkhart, along with a 6.5 percent increase for Deputy Assessor John Daniels, and an 8 percent increase for Chief Deputy Assessor Beau Crystal. Bahrenfuss said the additional amount for Crystal was to bring his salary more in line with similar positions across the state.

“As you recall, several years ago, we were required to name a chief deputy. His wage was far below what most deputies — let alone chief deputies in the state were making,” Bahrenfuss told the board. “You asked me not to raise him up at that time, but to do it over a period of time. That’s why his is that way.”

Bahrenfuss said Daniels’ wage increase was due to his increased responsibilities and so he can do as much appraisal in the field as possible, to save on hiring an outside appraisal service.

Supervisor Rick Young said he objected to the size of the wage increases.

“Deputies and the sheriff are making 2.75 percent (increases) and they are locked in for the next three years at that,” said Young. “We’ve got people with secondary roads that are out in the snowstorms, clearing snow, and they’re getting 2.75. That’s just unfair to all employees if some are getting 8 percent or 4 percent.”

Young said Tuesday’s meeting represented the third time he had been involved with the conference board meetings and that he wasn’t “going to keep my mouth shut anymore.”

Young said the increases in the assessor’s office have been set at 4 percent over the past five years.

The initial vote on the increases failed to receive a majority.

Supervisor Jerry Kloberdanz said he had talked with Bahrenfuss earlier in the week about the wages.

“It’s hard to go out to all the employees throughout the system and tell them they are getting a 2.75 increase when they know other departments are getting 8 percent,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with doing a one-time $5,000 stipend for Beau to get him to that point because of the responsibilities that he has.”

The budget was approved, with a 2.75 percent increase for Bahrenfuss, Daniels and Burkhart, and a $5,000 stipend for Crystal, with four board members voting against.

A public hearing will be held on March 9 at noon in the supervisor’s board room on the assessor’s budget.

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