By Tonya Fennell: CNJ staff writer
Curry County Commissioners approved a 12 percent salary increase for elected officials Tuesday during a regular meeting.
The increased was approved unanimously after a motion by Curry County Commissioner Tim Ashley for a 15 percent salary increase failed.
Commissioners Kathrynn Tate and Albin Smith opposed the 15 percent hike.
“I didn’t want people to think there goes politicians voting for a pay raise again,” Smith said regarding his vote.
Instead, Smith proposed the 12 percent salary increase.
“I believe it was a fair compromise,” Smith said. “Elected officials have a lot of responsibility and as our county grows they will be taking on more responsibility.”
Commissioner Ed Perales voted in favor of the 15 percent increase. He felt the salary hike was feasible because Curry County’s current management team and elected officials are frugal.
“I think they (elected officials) deserve a raise because of the tremendous amount of work they do for taxpayers,” Perales said, “and they are saving taxpayers money.”
Said Ashley: “I felt it was the right thing to do, especially for the skilled positions such as (Curry County) assessor and sheriff because it is their sole means of income.”
Commissioner Pete Hulder was absent from the meeting.
According to state law, elected officials can only receive a raise at the beginning of their term.
Therefore, only newly elected officials — Sheriff Matt Murray, Tax Assessor Randy Williams, Probate judge Kevin Duncan and Commissioners Frank Blackburn and Robert Sandoval will see the increase on Jan. 1.
The pay increases will cost the county about $15,000 annually.
Elected officials salaries were raised by 4 percent in 2002.
Effects of raises
A look at officials’ salaries before and after the increase:
— Commissioners: $17,486 to $19,583
— Tax assessor: $43,857 to $49,120
— Sheriff: $45,739 to $51,227.
— Probate judge: $15,346 to $17,188.
Source: Curry County officials.