BY MICHAEL WALTON
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — A Grand Traverse County elected official wants a raise but expects her request will fall on deaf ears.
Peggy Haines, the county’s register of deeds, is asking the Grand Traverse County Commission to increase her 2013 salary to $67,000. She makes just over $61,000.
That’s $5,400 less than her 2012 compensation, thanks to the county’s February 2012 decision to eliminate elected officials’ car allowances.
”I am probably the only person in the county working for $5,400 less than last year,” Haines said.
Haines said her current compensation is too low considering, among other things, improvements she said she’s made to her department during her 12-year tenure.
Haines has run the register of deeds department, which generated nearly $1.2 million in gross revenue for county coffers in 2012, without a chief deputy since 2010. She eliminated the position that year to save money.
She said she also improved services through multiple avenues, including the creation of online records that are public-accessible and can be purchased through credit cards.
First-time elected officials like the county prosecuting attorney, clerk and treasurer all make more money than Haines. The 2013 salaries for those positions are roughly $113,000, $65,000 and $78,000, respectively.
”I don’t want to sound like an ungrateful person, but then again why are we paying a brand new treasurer $78,000 when that salary could have been lowered,” Haines said.
County Commissioner Larry Inman questioned the value of comparing salaries across elected positions.
”You can’t say the clerk, treasurer and register of deeds should all be paid the same,” Inman said.
But he acknowledged compensation inequities among several county employees and officials.
Inman said the county needs to complete a study of job classifications and wages.
The county last commissioned a reclassification study in 2008. The results of that $190,000 effort were later refuted, and in 2010 the commission rescinded several raises for department heads and other key employees that were based on the 2008 study.
Inman said it’s time to try a reclassification study again, but he said the county also needs to stabilize revenues before considering widespread raises.
”When you complete one of those studies you could have a higher personnel cost,” Inman said. “You have to have new revenues to implement those plans.”
Commissioner Christine Maxbauer said the county should consider a system of performance-based bonuses for employees and officials, rather than raising salaries.
”If you exceed certain standards, you get a bonus,” Maxbauer said.
Haines liked Maxbauer’s idea, but doubted commissioners will seriously consider it, or any other increase to the register of deed’s salary. Haines originally planned to voice her argument before the commission during a March 21 committee meeting, but she changed her mind.
”I have a feeling it doesn’t matter what I say,” Haines said.