Members of the Douglas County Board are half-way to a pay raise. A vote from the Executive Committee approved an increase in the annual pay for board members at their most recent meeting.

If the measure gets approved by the full board, the annual salary for a sitting member of the Douglas County Board would be increased by more than 60%.  That number seems large without the context of what members are paid.   According an article in the Superior Telegram [paywall], that new salary is an increase of $1,800 from the existing $3,000 that members have currently earned.  The new salary being paid would be $4,800 per member.

The salary for the County Board Chairman - which is significantly higher - will remain unchanged, without a raise.  The current annual salary for the Chairman is $15,000.

As part of the research done before the proposal was passed, county officials discovered that the board had not seen a salary increase in decades:

"[Douglas] County Clerk Susan Sandvick said her search for changes in board compensation only revealed a 2013 approval for meeting stipends to increase by $10.  Going back to 2002, she said she found nothing that would indicate when the salary supervisors receive last changed."

Sandvick disclosed "[s]o it was prior to 2002 when your current salary was established."

Some discussion occurred about the amount of the raise and how it would look to county taxpayers.  Board member Alan Jaques pressed "[w]hat percentage of an increase is that?  We all like raises, but that's going to look wrong.  The board would have a hard time explaining the size of the increase  - 62.5% - when employees only got a 2% increase."

Douglas County, WI courthouse and government services building
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

Ultimately it came down to the problem that the county has been having in attracting candidates to run and fill positions on the board.  County Supervisor Nick Baker explained: "If we want people to run for these positions, one of the ways is that they are fairly compensated.  We should be doing what the city is.  We do as much work if not more."

Even when faced with difficult or "hot" issues, the board just hasn't seen an uptick in people rushing to fill the spots.  The article in the Telegram explains:

"Douglas County supervisors often run uncontested.  Even in 2002 when the  county increased its tax levy by 52%, only about one-third of the board members faced a challenge that year.  With the county board shrinking by seven members in the year after redistricting, many of the competitive races involved incumbents facing off to hold onto a seat on the board."

To save face on such a large perceived salary increase, board member Alan Jaques proposed an increase of 2% a year over the next "five or six years".  Other members didn't agree; Jaques as the only members to vote against the proposal as it was finally offered.

The Douglas County Board will re-address the issue at their next meeting of the full board on November 18.  The issue will go up for a vote at that meeting.  If it did pass, the measure would take effect in April 2022.

Douglas County, WI government office building
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

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