CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia county elected officeholders who haven’t received a pay raise in nearly eight years hope lawmakers will consider an increase in next year’s legislative session.
A legislative interim committee composed of senators and delegates discussed the possibility Monday during a meeting at the state capitol.
West Virginia Association of Counties Executive Director Patti Hamilton said the group—made up of county and circuit clerks, prosecutors, assessors, commissioners and sheriffs—hasn’t sought incremental pay increases from state lawmakers.
“We have not been asking for small, regular increases,” she said. “(Raises) tend to be infrequent, so they tend to look large until you look at what the cost of living has increased over the last eight years, and then they look pretty reasonable.”
Del. Mike Caputo (D-Marion) said it’s unfortunate lawmakers often choose not to increase salaries in steps, because it later catches up with them.
“We’ve waited so long that it seems like we’re blowing up everybody’s salary and that’s a problem we’ve always had in the legislature, whether it’s our salaries or our other public officials,” Caputo said. “I would be more favorable to (incremental) pay increases.”
Hamilton said county officeholders would probably support that also but not until they get a significant bump first.
“Unfortunately for this time period that ship has sailed,” she told lawmakers. “We did wait six years (before asking for a raise) and now this is the eighth year.”
Former Logan County commissioner and current state Senator Art Kirkendoll (D-Logan) said officeholders merit a raise, but the discussion must focus on a reasonable increase.
“You can’t bring a legislative group up here for someone that makes $36,500 and propose a $10,000 raise—that’s not going to fly,” Kirkendoll predicted. “Even an officeholder wouldn’t accept that kind of money if he planned on running for re-election. The public wouldn’t buy that.”
State law says only the legislature can approve pay increase for county constitutional officeholders but the money comes from increased county tax revenues. Counties have to be able to show they have the money before the raises can take effect.
The interim committee said it would discuss the issue more later this year.