KINGWOOD — Before pay raises for elected officials passed by the state legislature in the most recent section go into effect, two things need to happen.
First, according to state code, the state auditor’s office must certify counties have sufficient money to pay the salary increases. Second, each existing office holder affected must request the raise in writing.
Earlier this month the Preston County Commission tentatively passed its budget, which included $60,280 in pay raises as required by Senate Bill 172. The last time the legislature gave salary increases to elected officials was in 2014.
Each county commissioner is eligible for a $4,140 raise, for a total of $12,420. The sheriff’s salary increase is $6,527. The county clerk and circuit clerk are each getting a $6,209 raise. Assessor pay went up $6,527 and the prosecutor’s is up $10,819. Each raise also has an unemployment tax increase in the budget.
At Tuesday’s regular commission meeting, County Administrator Kathy Mace said the budget is currently at the auditor’s office for approval, as is the paperwork to determine if the county can afford the raises.
“This is something brand-new,” Mace said. “In the Senate bill that recently passed, there was a section that the auditor’s office must determine if you are fiscally, if your budget and your prospective future budgets will allow you to give elected officials the raise.”
If the auditor fails to certify that a county can afford the raises and related tax, pay rates remain the same as when certification was sought, the code states.
The information sent to the auditor’s office includes information about the budget, the county’s debts and liabilities, outside contributions, and possible future expenses.
Mace said she made note that revenue could change based on what voters decide about an amendment in November which would exempt machines, equipment and inventory used for business purposes from taxes.
Mace also said in 2024-25 the county may need to provide space for an additional circuit court judge, which would require money for construction or leasing.
“Also, it asked for a determination of future years. So basically, our narrative just says it’s way too early to determine maintaining the elected officials’ pay raise with all the unknowns of the revenue collections,” Mace said.
So far, only the county’s assessor has requested the raise, Mace said. By code, the office holders have until the raise goes into effect. Mace said she would reach out to the other elected officials and try to wrap it up.
If the raise is not requested, the code states their pay remains at the 2014 rate until their term expires or they vacate office, whichever happens first.