Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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December 8, 2012

Sullivan’s Salvos 12/11/12 In this edition: *Happy Hanukkah! *FY14 Budget *Speaking of Budgets… *Did You Know? *Happy Hanukkah! Happy Hanukkah to all our Jewish friends! As you celebrate the Festival of Lights, may your home be bright with happiness and love. *FY14 Budget Johnson County has already begun work on the FY14 budget, which will go into effect July 1, 2013. Now is a great time for you to contact Supervisors and tell them what things you like and what things you would like to change. Visit the County website at and you can listen to audio of all budget discussions to date. The topics are indexed, which makes it easy to skip to the sections you want to hear. So listen in, then weigh in! I’d like to know what you think! *Speaking of Budgets… I am always amazed at the spending that goes on in other governments. The following description of ICCSD discussions appeared in the Press Citizen last week: Superintendent Murley’s prospective contract sets a base salary of $192,000, an $8,000 increase over the base salary in Murley’s original contract from 2010. If approved, the contract — which is retroactive to July 1 — also would give Murley a $7,150 vehicle allowance, an unspecified technology allowance and family health insurance coverage. The contract also says Murley will be paid out for 41 unused vacation days from the last two years, totaling more than $20,000. With all due respect to Mr. Murley, this is all too much. I suppose I don’t blame him for asking for it, but I fail to understand why the School Board would approve it. The District fought to keep teacher salaries as low as possible; then they turn around and award a much larger percentage to the boss. What message does that send to teachers? While I am disappointed that the ICCSD Board would approve such an agreement, I should not be surprised. I don’t think I have EVER seen a School Board or City Council ask their leader to actually lead when it comes to salary and benefits. Perhaps someone can prove me wrong, but I honestly cannot recall ONE instance of a City Council giving its workers a higher percentage increase than it gives the City Manager. I am serious here. I’ve been a relatively close observer of municipal governments for the past 25 years. Has it ever occurred? The percentage may have been the same on rare occasions, but the boss’ compensation was then bolstered by vehicle allowances, deferred comp, and other perks. It doesn’t matter if the council is full of liberals or conservatives, Republicans or Democrats. The boss always wins. This is wrong on a couple of levels. First, by always offering a larger percentage to the boss, you devalue the workers. It sends a terrible message. Secondly, these guys already earn a lot of money, so the raw dollars included in the raises are huge. Most people in the community can only dream of such wages. So I think this is bad practice even in a good economy. It is even worse when the economy is bad! Leaders must lead by example. You cannot lay off teachers while giving the Superintendent a 4% raise. You cannot lay off sanitation workers while the City Manager gets a $7,000 raise. It borders on the absurd. There is one local government that is different. That is the County. I can hear it from other governments already – “But OUR people are professionals!” Well, no City Councilor anywhere in Johnson County ever understood human services better than Carol Thompson. No City Councilor understood tax appraisals/valuations any better than Mike Lehman. No City Councilor understood Public Health better than Joe Bolkcom. No City Councilor understood business better than Dick Myers. Sally Stutsman has been an excellent Supervisor. These people are professionals. I’ll take them over any City Manager any day. Additionally, Johnson County has done the right thing. When the economy was in the tank, the Supervisors took tiny raises – less than 1% in two cases, and never more than the amount negotiated by the unions. When the economy was doing well, Johnson County rewarded its’ leaders – with the SAME raises everyone else received. This does not mean Supervisors should be underpaid. Salaries need to be set at a level that attracts good candidates. People who serve in elective office deserve to make a decent living. I believe Supervisors currently meet this criteria. Supervisors in Johnson County earn $53,000 annually, which ranks 4th among Iowa’s Counties. Supervisors have full benefits. What’s more, Supervisors never punch a clock. Never. What is that type of flexibility worth? Supervisor salaries can fall behind, and they have. If that happens, it should be addressed. But so long as the existing pay for the position is commensurate, I do not believe in taking a raise greater than the raise negotiated by our unions. That is called leadership. It says we are all in this together. While other governments have ALWAYS chosen to overcompensate the boss, Johnson County has NEVER done so. Yet State law encourages city governments to take revenues from county governments. I guess the thinking is that they somehow know how to use it better. Yep. County government remains the “redheaded stepchild” of our local governments. It gets no respect. At least I can say we do not overpay our leaders! *Project Holiday A longstanding community tradition continues this year as Project Holiday returns for the season! I’ll be volunteering in both Iowa City and North Liberty – your donations of money and time are needed as well! For more information, see: *DID YOU KNOW? The number of Jewish Iowans is estimated to be only 6,500 – about 20% of whom live in Johnson County. Yet former Iowa City Mayor Moses Bloom (1833-1893) was the first Jewish Mayor of any major American city! 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. These messages come solely from Rod Sullivan, and neither represents the viewpoints of the whole Board of Supervisors nor those of groups or individuals otherwise mentioned. If you do NOT want the weekly E-mail, simply reply to this message, and type "unsubscribe" in the subject line. If you know anyone else who might be interested, just forward this message. They can E-mail me at with "subscribe" in the subject line. As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or I look forward to serving you! ---Rod


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