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Posted on Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

No more per diems: Board of Commissioners approves new compensation plan

By Amy Biolchini

The per diem reimbursement system for the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners is no more, after a nearly unanimous vote to adopt a new compensation plan and pay rate at its regular meeting Wednesday night.

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As the last order of business for the 2010-12 Board of Commissioners, it set the salary for the new board that will be seated in January for the next two-year term. Redistricting and retirements mean four commissioners will not be returning in 2013 as the board shrinks from 11 members to nine.

The annual salary for the nine commissioners in 2013 will be raised by $200 to $15,750, though the budget for the Board of Commissioners will drop from $505,664 to $489,165.

The Board of Commissioners passed the new compensation resolution by a 10-1 vote Wednesday night, with Commissioner Dan Smith, R-Northfield Township, voting against the measure.

The amount of $15,750 is half the median income for the lowest pay grade of county employees in 2012. The salary increase marks the first time since 1999 that the commissioners’ pay rate has been adjusted.

Chairman Conan Smith first introduced the changes to the compensation for the board at a November meeting, where they were met with a generally positive reaction.

Washtenaw County is paying its commissioners a salary of $0.49 per resident. With the $200 increase in salary, the smaller board size and larger districts mean commissioners will be paid $0.41 per resident in 2013. That rate is the lowest in southeast Michigan.

Under the new compensation resolution adopted Wednesday, the chairman of the board will receive an additional salary of $3,000, as will any commissioner that is the head of a standing committees like the Ways and Means committee.

Beginning in 2013, there will also be a vice chairman or chairwoman of the board who will be paid an additional salary of $1,000, as a result of an amendment by Commissioner Yousef Rabhi.

Instead of a per diem system of reimbursements for committee meetings attended by the commissioners, the board has adopted a stipend schedule. For a committee that meets once to twice a year, a commissioner would receive a stipend of $50.

Attending active committees that meet more than 24 times a year would earn a commissioner a stipend of $1,000.

Per diems were a point of contention in the 2010 election cycle, when an audit revealed commissioners were improperly collecting pay. Though changes were made to the way the requests were approved, county officials state the process takes a lot of administrative time.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at (734) 623-2552, amybiolchini@annarbor.com or on Twitter.

Comments

SEC Fan

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 4:43 p.m.

Very interesting. But you omitted 2 very important aspects of this new "system". First, the raise is INDEXED to "one-half (½) the median STEP of the lowest grade salary among County employees" and will be adjusted annually! So they voted themselves continual raises, much as Congress did after they caught a lot of flack for their votes on raises. Second, the annual stipends are based upon the number of meetings the committees are "expected" to meet. It doesn't even require the council persons to ATTEND any of the meetings. Also, it would be nice to know what is defined as a "Standing Committee". Is it just the Ways and Means and the Working Session committees or are there more? If it's just these two, then 1/3 of the commissioners just voted themselves an additional $3,000 per year.

annarboral

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 3:41 p.m.

Commissioners should serve without any compensation.

LXIX

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 1:11 p.m.

Too late. Mark Ouimet has already moved on to those better diems.

Alan Goldsmith

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 1:11 p.m.

From Deadline Detroit: "Detroit can't be globally competitive without better transportation, and this legislation is the necessary first step to building that system," said the Michigan Suburbs Alliance's Hayley Roberts. "We hope that House Democrats and Republicans alike will recognize this critical opportunity for metro Detroit and the state as a whole, and will pass these bills regardless of politics." http://deadlinedetroit.com/articles/2922/missing_the_bus_dems_block_transit_authority_to_protest_right_to_work Running Michigan Suburbs Alliance is Conan Smith's day job. Doesn't Washtenaw County have ANY conflict of interest guidelines for managing this sort of activity? Does Smith represent his lobbying group or the voters of my Ann Arbor County Commission district?

nickcarraweigh

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 12:28 p.m.

I found the computation of commission pay on a per capita basis a strange one to make, sort of like announcing an aircraft carrier will cost each American $27.32. But I remembered where I'd seen such arithmetic used before. It's called "reduction to the ridiculous". Anybody who's been to a used car lot, and didn't lay down for the first price offer, has probably seen it up-close-and-personal. Except in that case, of course, it was used by a professional.

DonBee

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 11:41 a.m.

So has Conan Smith paid back the county yet? He seems to have more money from the county now, I hope he can pay back his overdrawn per diem if he has not yet.

Amy Biolchini

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 4:45 p.m.

Initially, Conan Smith decided to not pay the county back for the $591 he owed in per diem payments discovered in the audit. In January, County Clerk Larry Kestenbaum re-analyzed the meetings Smith attended and determined Smith owed $175, which Smith has since paid.

Alan Goldsmith

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 11:29 a.m.

"Washtenaw County is paying its commissioners a salary of $0.49 per resident. With the $200 increase in salary, the smaller board size and larger districts mean commissioners will be paid $0.41 per resident in 2013. That rate is the lowest in southeast Michigan." Did Conan Smith provide these figures?

Amy Biolchini

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 4:43 p.m.

I calculated that rate for a previous story based on figures provided to the board for review by Conan Smith.

Alan Goldsmith

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 11:28 a.m.

"Per diems were a point of contention in the 2010 election cycle, when an audit revealed commissioners were improperly collecting pay. Though changes were made to the way the requests were approved, county officials state the process takes a lot of administrative time." AnnArbor.com at the time ran an editorial demanding Commissioners pay back their 'improper' payments for expenses. Conan Smith never did and recently worked out a backroom deal with the County to pay part of it and ignore the rest, details of which haven't been released. This new process is just political cover for Commissioner Smith, who arrogantly continues to refuse to man up and pay what he owes the taxpayer. A follow up on that story would be most welcome.