Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Three County Officials Could Get Pay Hike

County Clerk, Treasurer and Register of Deeds could make six-figure salaries if board okays it.

By - Feb 27th, 2024 10:09 am

Milwaukee County Courthouse. Photo by Graham Kilmer.

Three elected officials in county government could see their salaries bumped up to six figures next year, provided the Milwaukee County Board approves and they win reelection.

Milwaukee County’s Department of Human Resources is seeking to increase the annual salary for the County Clerk, Register of Deeds, and the Treasurer to approximately $102,000. All three are constitutional officers, as they are positions enumerated in the state constitution.

The county clerk oversees and maintains county government records. The register of deeds maintains important public records and real estate instruments, processing thousands of records every year. The treasurer manages the daily cash flow of county government, overseeing the county’s accounts and fund balances and investing public funds.

All three offices currently collect a salary of approximately $91,483 annually. Compared to Dane County, and a few “comparable counties” in the Midwest, the pay for these positions is not keeping pace with the market, according to a Human Resources report.

The proposal amounts to an 11.5% raise for the three positions, an increase HR recognizes is “the highest percentage increase for constitutional officers in recent years.”

These three offices received a $3,518 salary increase in 2020. At the time, HR also proposed a raise for County Executive, Sheriff and Clerk of Circuit Court. But the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors stripped those salary increases out of the funding legislation.

If the county board approves the new raises, they will take effect in 2025 after the fall election, when all three offices will be on the ballot.

Of the three incumbents — County Clerk George Christenson, Register of Deeds Israel Ramón and Treasurer David Cullen — only Cullen faces an opponent that has publicly announced a campaign. Cullen will be challenged by Ted Chisholm, the son of District Attorney John Chisholm and until recently a senior staffer in the Clerk of Court’s office, who has announced his candidacy for the office.

In determining whether or not the positions should receive a raise, human resources conducted a market analysis, it reported. In Dane County, the closes salaries out of the three is for treasurer, and Dane County still pays its treasurer more than $24,000 more than Milwaukee County. Though, Milwaukee County does pay these officers more than their counterparts in Racine, Waukesha and Brown Counties.

Some midwestern counties of similar size pay these officers as much as $170,000, according to the Human Resources report. This would make these officers among the highest paid in county government for both elected and un-elected officials.

The highest paid constitutional officer in Milwaukee County is Sheriff Denita Ball, who earns a salary of $137,581 annually.

Constitutional officers often have to hire employees with highly specialized skills and certifications, at times leading to situations where their directly reporting employees are earning a larger salary than they are, according to HR. Though, this is not uncommon across counties in the state.

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Categories: MKE County, Politics

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