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Platte County supervisors highest paid for public service in county

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Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect a clarification regarding the last time the Columbus mayor and members of the Columbus city council received pay increases.

Of all the local representatives elected in Platte County, members of the Platte County Board of Supervisors are paid the most for their public service.

On Jan. 6, the Platte County Board passed a resolution granting the supervisors salary increases in 2023, 2024, 2025 and 2026. The supervisors currently receive $16,500 per year, and have since at least 2018. Next year, they will get $17,500, with a $500 raise each of the three subsequent years.

"The salary is already higher than the (Columbus) city council and the Loup (Public Power District) board," Board Chairman and District 6 Supervisor Jerry Engdahl said during a Jan. 4 discussion of the supervisors' salaries.

Engdahl, Ron Pfiefer and Jerry Micek voted in favor of the Jan. 6 resolution that gave the supervisors' salary increases, while Supervisors Kim Kwapnioski and Bob Lloyd voted against. Supervisors Fred Liss and Jim Scow were absent.

Not too far behind the supervisors are members of the Columbus City Council, Loup Power District Board of Directors and Nebraska Public Power District Board of Directors.

"(The) mayor is $10,642 annually and city council members (receive) $6,635 annually, both set by resolution in 2006," Columbus City Administrator Tara Vasicek said in a Wednesday email to the Telegram.

However, the mayor and council members have received pay raises since 2006. The 2006 resolution, R06-107, established automatic pay increases for city council members every two years and the mayor every four years. R06-107 says the increase will be equal to the “total percentage of adjustment made to the City Pay Plan” since the last increase. The consequent pay increases are reflected in an ordinance the city council passes every year near the beginning of September, which sets the pay scale for all city officers and employees, including the mayor and city council members.

Meanwhile, it has been roughly 20 years since compensation was adjusted for members of the Loup board or the NPPD board.

In a Wednesday email to the Telegram, Loup President/CEO Neal Suess explained how the Loup Board of Directors salaries are set.

"Our Board has the ability to change this, and they have looked at this in the past, but they have not done that since I have been President/CEO. I am not sure when the last time is that they changed this. It might have been prior to 2000, so over 20 years. In addition, the board does have access to obtain health insurance the same as our employees. This is a benefit allowed by state law," Suess said.

Suess said the Loup board chairman currently receives $650 per month, or $7,800 annually. Other Loup board members are paid $600 monthly, or $7,200 per year.

"(Nebraska) Statute 70-624.02 allows a maximum benefit of $15,120/year for the board chairman and $13,440/year (for the other board members)," Suess said.

State law also establishes maximum salary amounts for public power district board members, NPPD Media Relations Specialist Grant Otten said in an email to the Telegram on Wednesday.

"There are two categories based on the annual revenue of the district. NPPD is in the over $40 million annual revenue category (actual annual NPPD revenues are over one billion dollars). Under the statute, salaries are limited to $13,440 per year for all members except the chair of the board who can receive up to $15,120 per year. NPPD directors receive the amounts listed. These amounts have remained the same for more than two decades," Otten said.

The members of most local other elected boards receive little to no compensation, although many can be reimbursed for mileage and other expenses incurred as a result of their duties.

Public school board members for class III districts -- like Columbus Public, Lakeview Community and Humphrey Public schools -- are prohibited from receiving compensation under Nebraska law, as are community college board members.

Sanitary improvement district board of trustees members receive $15 for each meeting they attend, for up to 12 meetings each year.

Members of fire protection district boards may earn up to $50 per meeting, but not for more than 12 meetings in a year.

Natural resource district board members may get $70 for each day one "attends meetings of the board or is engaged in matters concerning the district," up to $3,600 per year.

Although Nebraska Association of County Officials (NACO) salary recommendations did not come up during discussion of either the Platte County supervisors salaries or the salaries of various elected Platte County officials, NACO recommends that all Nebraska county board members make at least $24,900 in 2023 and that salaries be adjusted annually to reflect cost of living changes, something the Platte County board does not do and has not done.

"It has been found that County Board members sometimes fail to adjust their own salaries. The committee strongly encourages County Board members to give serious consideration to adjusting their own salaries upward," the NACO guidance document said.

Molly Hunter is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at molly.hunter@lee.net.

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