Kandiyohi County Commissioners change how they are paid, going with flat salary in 2022 and no per diems

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Dec. 31—WILLMAR — The Kandiyohi County Commissioners say they don't do the work for the money. However, they do get paid, and at the Dec. 21 meeting, the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners made changes to that compensation.

Starting Jan. 1, 2022, the five commissioners will be paid a flat salary of $39,943. This new salary includes the commissioner's current base salary of $31,380 plus another $8,249, which is replacing the per diems the commissioners used to collect for attending committee meetings. There is also a 1% cost of living increase built into the 2022 salary.

"It really cleans things up, doing it this way," said Larry Kleindl, county administrator, who made the recommendation to change the compensation back in July.

The old way of collecting per diems created paperwork for both the commissioners and the Auditor/Treasurer's Office and could also be confusing and uneven. Each commissioner could collect an $80 per diem once a day for every day they attended a committee meeting outside of the normal twice-monthly County Board meetings. The $8,249 added to the commissioner base salary for next year is the five-year average of how much each commissioner collected in per diems per year.

Kleindl said basing commissioner compensation partially on per diems was hard to budget for, because one never knew just how many meetings a commissioner would be attending. There are about 70 different committees that the five commissioners divvy up between them each January. But not all committees are created equal.

"Not every committee has the same amount of meetings," Kleindl said. One could meet once a year, while another might meet weekly for months at a time.

Commissioners will still receive reimbursement for their mileage to and from meetings and their meals. Starting in 2023 the commissioners will also receive the same cost of living increase as all other county employees.

This new pay system is also more transparent. Taxpayers will now know at a glance exactly how much commissioners are being paid.

There was some concern raised by Commissioner Duane Anderson that, without a per diem, a commissioner might feel they can skip a meeting or two because they'll be paid anyway. That idea was rejected.

"I don't see that happening with this group or any future group," said Commissioner Steve Gardner. "Anyone who does this job will do it seriously."

Gardner did add that perhaps the board should work harder to make sure the committee assignments are as evenly distributed as possible and that the commissioners should operate under attendance expectations, to make sure meetings are attended.

The commissioners have to set their annual salary for the upcoming year by December. This means the commissioners can always decide to go back to the old way of doing things if they don't like how the new system works.

"I would encourage you to at least give this a try," Kleindl said.

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