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Clay OKs salaries, tax levy

Clay County commissioners gave themselves a raise on Tuesday and set 2007 base salaries for the county's other elected officials. Commissioners also finalized the county's 2007 tax levy, which on average will result in a 5.58 property tax increas...

Clay County commissioners gave themselves a raise on Tuesday and set 2007 base salaries for the county's other elected officials.

Commissioners also finalized the county's 2007 tax levy, which on average will result in a 5.58 property tax increase for Clay County citizens.

The County Board passed the salary proposal in a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Ben Brunsvold dissenting. Commissioners approved a base salary of $23,992 for 2007.

That's a $1,100 pay increase over 2006, according to salary figures provided by County Human Resources Director Dawn Schlosser-Greuel.

The hike is in line with average increases for 15 Minnesota counties with demographics similar to Clay, Schlosser-Greuel said.

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Commissioners Jerry Waller and Kevin Campbell, however, will earn less than colleagues Brunsvold, Jon Evert and Mike McCarthy.

Waller and Campbell declined a cost-of-living salary increase in 2003; they will earn a base salary of $23,547 in 2007.

Commissioners voted to set the following base salaries for elected officials in 2007:

E County Auditor/Treasurer Lori Johnson, $91,005.

E County Recorder J. Bonnie Rehder, $65,511.

E County Sheriff Bill Bergquist, $88,888.

Newly elected County Attorney Brian Melton's salary will be established when he returns from military duty in Iraq later this spring.

Commissioners finalized the county's 2007 tax levy in a 4-1 decision. Brunsvold again cast the dissenting vote.

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The $20.2 million tax levy for 2007 is a 9.33 percent increase from the 2006 tax levy.

Brunsvold, a vocal critic of financial management practices in the county auditor's office, said he rejected the budget because he doesn't believe the county needs to raise taxes. Additional funds could be hidden in sloppy bookkeeping, he said, and the county shouldn't raise taxes until it has a better handle on its finances.

"I'm not satisfied we need to raise taxes with the way we do our accounting," Brunsvold said.

Other county officials say Brunsvold's reasoning is inaccurate. County Auditor Lori Johnson has said repeatedly that financial records are accurate and up-to-date.

County Administrator Vijay Sethi said that throughout the 2007 budgeting process declining state and federal revenues - coupled with escalating government costs - resulted in a need to raise taxes and curb funding for some county programs and services.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Melinda Rogers at (701) 241-5524

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