CHARLESTON - A bill that would have given elected county officials a pay raise has died in committee at the state Legislature.
Senate Bill 168 would have allowed counties to increase the pay of county commissioners, county clerks, circuit clerks, the sheriff, prosecuting attorneys and assessors if the county had funds available to do so.
The bill failed to make it out of committee before last Wednesday, which was the crossover day for bills from either house to be passed and sent to the other house for consideration. Elected county officials pay is set by the Legislature.
In a letter to legislators, the heads of the West Virginia Association of Counties, the County Commissioners' Association of West Virginia, the West Virginia Association of Circuit Clerks, the Association of West Virginia Assessors, the West Virginia Prosecuting Attorneys Association, the West Virginia County Clerks Association and the West Virginia Sheriffs' Association all voiced their support for a compensation increase.
''This effort was discussed at length by each member association,'' the letter said. ''It is always a difficult process to take this issue to the Legislature, and not one that elected officials undertake lightly or frequently.
''The last compensation increase for county officials went into effect on July 1, 2006.''
More About The Bill
The original legislation had safeguards that allowed counties to provide pay increases if the money was available, the associations' letter said.
Each official would be required to sign an affidavit to accept a salary increase.
The letter cited that officials infrequently sought an increase; the increased responsibilities, caseloads and workloads of many county offices require more; the need to attract and keep qualified, capable and professional county officials; and the cost-of-living expense has increased 2.3 percent annually between 2006-2011.
Local officials were tracking the bill and its progress.
Wood County Clerk Jamie Six was in support of the bill as it had been six years since the last pay increase was approved.
People at any job get increases in pay for job performance, longevity and/or other issues, Six said.
''This is our full-time job,'' Six said. ''This is what we do for our living.''
Non-elected officials have gotten pay raises from time to time.
In 1988, the county clerk made $31,300 a year and the county administrator made $22,000. In 2012, the county clerk makes $55,440 and the county administrator makes $63,650.
Six said county administrators deserve the pay they get for the work they do with more demands put on them over the years. Elected officials want to show they do their work diligently while incorporating innovations into their offices to improve service, he said.
''We run a good office here,'' Six said.
Wood County Commission President Blair Couch said this legislation was not something the Wood County Commission lobbied for or against.
''We made no special trips to Charleston,'' he said to discuss the matter with legislators.
Couch said the pay would not have any bearing on how the officials did the work.
The commissioners make around $36,000 each annually.
''I knew what the pay was when I ran,'' Couch said.