Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Board Will Consider Raise for Sheriff

Proposed raise, effective at start of next sheriff's term in 2023, may face board opposition.

By - Jan 17th, 2022 04:26 pm

Milwaukee County Sheriff badge. Courtesy of Milwaukee County

Milwaukee County’s Department of Human Resources would like to give the Milwaukee County Sheriff a 4% raise. But if the past is any indication, it’s unlikely this will make it through the Milwaukee County Board without a fight.

The last time a sheriff received a raise in Milwaukee County was before 2009, according to a report by human resources. The county is looking to increase the salary for the sheriff by 4% beginning in 2023, which will be the start of the next sheriff’s term.

The sheriff is currently the county’s highest paid constitutional officer, according to a 2020 report from the Human Resources, which includes such elected officials as county executive, treasurer and county clerk. The current annual salary for the sheriff is $132,290. The proposed increase would raise that to $137,581.

Sheriff Earnell Lucas is currently running for Milwaukee mayor and is not seeking a second term as sheriff.

In March 2020, Human Resources department officials went before the county board seeking approval of a schedule of salary increases for the county’s constitutional officers. At the time, the board did not approve the scheduled raises for the sheriff, clerk of circuit court or the county executive.

The sheriff’s raise was set to begin in 2023 and the county executive and clerk’s raise were marked for 2024, which corresponds to the beginning of the next term for these offices. The resolution passed by the board in 2020 noted that members of the finance committee “expressed concerns” that the report was scheduling raises several years before new terms were set to begin.

“Salary review best practices for elected officials should require [Human Resources] to examine labor market conditions closer to the beginning of the new term of office and also provide policymakers adequate time to review their recommendations,” the board’s resolution states. State law prohibits mid-term raises for elected officials.

Now, two years later, the department is returning to the board requesting the 4% increase for the sheriff. In its report, Dean Legler, Director of Compensation, states that the proposed increase is intended to match the recent 4% raises given to other constitutional officers.

Legler’s report states the raise “is being requested to address better alignment with the market as well as with internal equity for the role of Sheriff.”

Raises for constitutional officers don’t always sail through the board without a fight from supervisors. In 2019, Human Resources sought a raise for the Milwaukee County Comptroller, a position which attracts far less scrutiny and controversy than the sheriff’s office. The position of comptroller was created in 2012, and has been held by Scott Manske ever since. The salary for the position was set at $125,000 at inception. Human Resources was seeking a 12% raise, which would have brought the salary up to $140,000.

If considered against the outcome of a market compensation study Human Resources commissioned for positions like comptroller the proposed raise was a conservative pay bump. That study concluded that competitive pay would be somewhere above $150,000 a year, according to a Human Resources report.

Supervisors debated the ethics and rationale of providing an elected county official a $15,000 raise. The county’s financial trouble hung in the background of many supervisors’ arguments when discussing the raise. More than one noted that corrections officers had recently attended the board’s annual public budget meeting to decry their level of compensation. For years, officials in the jail and the House of Correction have told the board that they struggle to retain officers because pay is uncompetitive relative to nearby counties.

Ultimately, a smaller raise of $5,000 for comptroller was passed narrowly on a 9-7 vote.

While the raise is being sought for just the sheriff, during the past two budget cycles Sup. Ryan Clancy has sought to reduce the overall budget for the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office. While most of Clancy’s attempts have not gained enough board support to pass, he saw more success during this past budget cycle and has been joined by Supervisors Sequanna Taylor and Priscilla E. Coggs-Jones in trying to draw funding from the sheriff’s budget to put into other county programs.

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Categories: MKE County

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