Kenneth Eichwald

Sandoval County Commissioners postponed their decision on whether to give newly elected and re-elected officials pay raises in January.

Thursday night, at the Sandoval County Administrative Building, Commissioner Kenneth Eichwald, District 5, said it is inappropriate to give elected officials raises during a pandemic.

“In June of this year, we as a commission met and said, ‘Hey, some of you employees may need to get furloughed because we don’t have any money,’” Eichwald said. “And here we are looking at whether we are going to get raises for elected officials.”

The commission tabled the vote on pay raises for elected officials till the Dec. 10 meeting. The possible pay increase would affect newly elected and re-elected officials.

These county officials include:

  • Commissioner Jay Block; District 2;
  • Commissioner David Heil, District 4;
  • Eichwald;
  • Treasurer-elect Jennifer Taylor; and
  • Clerk-elect Anne Brady-Romero.

If approved, all other elected positions at the county would have a pay increase after the next election, said county spokesman Stephen Montoya.

A chart of elected positions eligible for a raise in January pending on Sandoval County Commission approval Dec.10.
Source: Sandoval County documents

The state legislature caps county pay increases at 15 percent and leaves the decision to implement an increase to the county commission, said county manager Wayne Johnson.

The last time the commission approved increases for elected officials’ salaries was in 2014. However, it has been discussed since, being voted down in 2018.

“The last time we did this, the issue we were concerned about was that we hadn’t properly addressed compensation for our first responders or for our employees,” Heil said. “I think over the past two years, we have made great progress in that.”

The county has provided an average raise of 11.79 percent to employees, according to county documents.

In January, the county conducted a formal salary survey and market analysis of employees. The cost to adjust salaries to be competitive with the market is about $934,000, according to county documents.

In addition, county employees received benefit increases and wages amounting to almost $1.3 million. The county has also allocated about $351,000 in pay increases and insurance pick-ups for three unions.

According to county documents, the staff recommends caution when implementing any pay increases for elected officials.

Eichwald asked the county manager and attorney if the commission can approve a pay increase depending on sufficient funds in the budget. For example, the commission approves pay increases and there is no extra money in the budget, the commission would receive nothing; if there are sufficient funds for a 10 percent increase, the commission would receive that, Eichwald said.

In addition, commissioners asked if they can implement targeted raises — meaning give one elected official a higher raise than another. Needing to do research, the county manager and attorney said they would answer at the next meeting.

The next county commission meeting on Dec. 10 will be lived streamed at sandovalcountynm.gov, under “quick links” in a tab called “meeting videos.”

Assistant Editor at Rio Rancho Observer