Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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February 16, 2010

Sullivan’s Salvos 2/2/10


I am still steamed about the Joint Emergency Communications Center. To be completely clear… this is no Johnny-come-lately thing for me. I have been fighting what I see as problems with the JECC since the very beginning. If you need proof, check our minutes and check their minutes. (There isn’t much to their minutes, but they do show me in attendance twice.)

Some JECC members think they should have had the same levy forever. I always thought the first year amount of .77 was a max. Once you have paid for the building, towers, and radios… why would you need that same amount of money over and over again?

An analogy… I buy a $4000 car. I pay for the car, tax, title, license, insurance, etc. Then I have some gas and maintenance costs. So my first year of car ownership actually costs $6000.

So when I sit down to do my family budget, do I plug in $6000 for the next year? Of course not – I already own the car! I still have some expenses, and I should probably set aside a little extra just in case. But I will not need $6000 again.

The JECC has gotten somewhere in the neighborhood of $17 million in two budget years. (Maybe more, maybe less… they couldn’t answer the question until 5 days ago.) They cannot possibly require $8.5 million per year forever.

Sure, they need to put away some money for contingencies. But more than the total reserve of Johnson County? The public really needs to weigh in as to what is the appropriate amount of savings. The JECC Board needs to listen to some people who understand financial policy and not their consultants.

While I am pleased that the JECC Board reduced their levy, they did the exact opposite of what I requested. They STILL have a bloated budget; they simply dipped into reserves to pay for it. They needed to cut spending instead!

This is even worse, in some ways, because they are still going to hire several unnecessary staff people. When we have this same fight in a year, those people will be entrenched. These unneeded positions will NEVER go away – NEVER. So next year, we will see the same bloated budget, just more difficult to fix. The problem was simply kicked down the road.

It was also disappointing to find that they overspent an $11 million equipment budget by $1 million dollars! (They made up the difference through unspent operational funds.) I am told this is because the consultant could only give them an estimate in terms of the number of radios needed. I would argue that this simply points out that the consultant is likely not worth the money he was paid, and should not be trusted to offer advice on things - such as staffing.

At least now they seem to know how much they have in each account. If I have accomplished nothing else, at least we have that. The Board of Supervisors has requested a quarterly financial report; I hope the cities and other groups do so as well.

Meanwhile, thanks to all of you who have inquired into this venture. We need the public to get involved in these issues; government produces a better product that way. Please continue to pay attention!

The Domestic Violence Intervention Program (DVIP) Souper Bowl event is Thursday, February 4 from 5:30-7:30 at the Quality Inn, Highlander. Tickets are $20.00 at the door.

This annual event is DVIP’s biggest fundraiser, and goes a long ways toward providing shelter to victims of domestic violence in Johnson County.

The Sullivan for Supervisor team will be Bowling For Kids Sake once again this year. We have room on our team for two bowlers… would you like to join the cause? If so, let me know! Otherwise, we would love to have you sponsor us. Just go to the BBBS website at

And follow the links.

The Compensation Board met recently to recommend the salaries of our County elected officials. For the record, here is where we stand now:

Johnson County is either the 4th or 5th most populous county. (Blackhawk and Johnson counties have extremely similar populations, both at just over 130,000.) Given that, it seems to make sense that the salaries of elected officials would rank in the #3 to #6 range. If we maintain that type of comparability, we would be doing well.

Office Salary Rank Comparisons

Supervisors 51,107 4 $10,000 behind #3; $5,000 ahead of #5

Attorney 121,246 4 $7,000 behind #3; $12,000 ahead of #5

Sheriff 94,393 6 $2,000 behind #5; $3,000 ahead of #7

Auditor 73,287 5 $1,000 behind #4; $5,000 ahead of #6

Recorder 73,040 4 $1,000 behind #3; $7,500 ahead of #5

Treasurer 73,040 5 $1,000 behind #4; $7,000 ahead of #6

As the chart demonstrates, every elected official in Johnson County ranks between #4 and #6 in salary. In addition, each job pays about 10% more than the next highest paid in the state, the exceptions being the Auditor, who is 7% ahead of #6, and the Sheriff, who is 3.2% ahead of #7.

Then you have the issue of benefits. Elected Officials do not have to punch a clock. They do not have to request sick time, vacation time, or personal days. They come and go as they please. Most county employees – those who break a sweat, punch a clock, and work on the front lines – will be getting a 2.75% raise.

Given all this, I find it hard to argue that elected officials deserve a raise. The Comp Board had 4 members vote for a 2% raise, and 2 people vote for zero. So the official recommendation was 2%.

When it came time for the Board of Supervisors to vote, the motion was made for 1.4%. I asked for less, but three members approved a 1.4% raise for each elected official. So 1.4% it is. More than I would like, but the Board works by democracy.

But let’s also address the fact that some folks see the answer to every budget as no raises for elected officials.

The ten elected officials combined earn about $689,000. A 1.4% raise = $9,646 total for ten people. (Sups will earn an additional $700 each next year.) A $75 million dollar budget cannot be fixed (nor broken) by $9,000.

So go ahead and make the argument that elected officials do not deserve raises. I agree. We both wish the issue had gone differently. Just don’t pretend that $9,000 is a magic bullet.

DID YOU KNOW? Half of Iowa’s 3 million people live in the ten most populous counties. (Polk, Linn, Scott, Johnson, Black Hawk, Woodbury, Dubuque, Story, Pottawattamie, and Dallas.)

Anyone interested in learning more about County government should take a look at the County website-

"Sullivan’s Salvos" is sent once per week to any interested party. It will give a brief update on issues of interest to Johnson County residents.

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As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or I look forward to serving you!



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