Berrien County commissioners approve raises for themselves, employees

Published 4:50 pm Thursday, April 14, 2022

ST. JOSEPH – Berrien County elected officials are getting a pay raise after action Thursday by the Berrien County Board of Commissioners. The pay raises are for 2.5 percent a year for both 2023 and 2024.

CountycCommissioners approved the pay raise for themselves and six other elected officials on a 11-1 vote at Thursday’s meeting. Commissioner Ezra Scott voted no and said he did so because he is not running for re-election and would not vote on a pay raise for the next board.

Commissioners’ annual salaries will increase from $11,061 now to $11,338 next year and to $11,621 in 2024. Committee chairs and the board’s vice chair will see their salary increase from $11,726 this year to $12,019 next year and $12,319 in 2024. The county chair’s salary increases from $12,530 this year to $12,843 next year and $12,165 in 2024.

In addition to the salary, commissioners are paid per diems for coming to meetings and are also reimbursed for mileage. They also get other benefits such as health insurance, life insurance, dental/vision reimbursement or insurance and can participate in the county’s pension plan.

Other elected officials seeing their salary increase are the county clerk, the county treasurer, the county prosecutor, the county sheriff, the drain commissioner and the register of deeds.

The county clerk’s, county treasurer’s, drain commissioner’s and register of deeds’ salaries rise from $88,684 this year to $90,901 in 2023 and $93,174 in 2024. The county prosecutor’s salary increases from $140,670 this year to $144,187 in 2023 and $147,792 in 2024. The sheriff’s salary rises from $114,679 this year to $117,546 in 2023 and $120,485 in 2024.

In addition to Scott’s comment, Hagar Township resident Adolph Peltzer first questioned who was getting a raise and how much they make. He then suggested that everyone should get the same dollar amount raise rather than a percentage raise where those who make more get more.

The information on who is getting a raise and what they make was released during the meeting.


South county telecommunications project moving along

In committee reports, County Commissioner and Administration Committee Chair Jim Curran reported that his committee heard a report on the new south county telecommunications tower project. The county has been looking for a location for the new tower to improve emergency radio reception along the state line.

Curran said that progress is being made in negotiations with American Electric Power for the purchase of the building the county wants to use as well as with the city of Buchanan which has to approve planning and zoning changes.

The county received a $5 million state grant to help pay for the tower project last fall. The entire project is expected to cost $7.8 million.

He said the hope is to have the same presentation from Pearson Construction, the county’s contractor, that his committee heard Thursday be given to the full board at an upcoming Committee of the Whole meeting. Committee of the whole meetings are hosted most Thursday mornings at 8:35 a.m. prior to that day’s county board meeting.


Other business

Also Thursday, commissioners approved three resolutions for the Berrien County Public Defender office, one for annual funding from the Michigan Indigent Defense Council of $4.59 million and two others related to a new project.

Berrien County Chief Public Defender Paul Janch, Jr. reported last week on his office’s new efforts to meet the needs of marginalized youth called the Emerging Adults Task Force. Plans call for the new program to be housed in the Niles Courthouse.

Jancha said his office is requesting $155,980 in extra funding from the Michigan Indigent Defense Council for the rest of the state fiscal year, which runs through September, with no extra funds required to be given by the county. He said the annual cost of the new project is anticipated to be $502,335. The new program could start in June if funding is received.