The salary of newly-elected Roosevelt County commissioners will jump by 40 percent starting in January.
Roosevelt County commissioners approved the salary increase, along with the increases of 16 percent and 17 percent for other elected positions at the June 5 commission meeting.
The increases are only for newly elected officials who take office in 2012 and beyond. State statute does not allow commissioners to vote on salaries for current elected officials, according to Ryan Gleason, the director of Local Government Division for the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration.
“The reason the Legislature made this statute was to place a cap on the amount elected officials could be paid,” Gleason said.
Currently commissioners receive an annual salary of $16,282. The new salary is $22,832.
Money for the raises comes from the county’s general fund, which is $3.4 million for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.
Other offices included in the raises were treasurer (17 percent), tax assessor (17 percent), sheriff (16 percent) and clerk (17 percent).
County commissioners were allowed to consider pay increases for elected officials because the county was recently reclassified as a B-Over county instead of a B-Under county, according to Gleason.
Counties, Gleason said, are classified based on total property value reported by individual county assessors in relation to county population.
He said Roosevelt County moved to B-Over classification by surpassing $300 million in property value with a population less than 100,000.
“They (classifications) all have their maximum salaries set in the statute,” Gleason said. “Commissioners can pay officials less than the maximum but they can’t pay them more.”
Gleason said the state decides the classification of a county but commissioners decide whether to remain at the current salary for elected officials or increase to the new maximum salary.
Roosevelt County commissioners voted to pay officials the maximum salary they can be paid ($22,832) in a B-Over county.
Chaves, Lea and Lincoln counties are B-Over classification and also pay the maximum B-Over salary to elected officials.
Two commission seats and the probate judge and county clerk positions, which will be decided in November, will be eligible for the raise.
Commissioner Jake Lopez and commissioner candidate Richard Leal will benefit from the raise if elected in November.
Lopez won last week’s Democratic primary and does not face a Republican challenger in the November general election.
Leal will not face a Democratic challenger in the general election.
Salary increases would also impact Probate Judge Barbara George and county clerk candidate Donna Carpenter, who also do not face challengers in November.
Asked why commissioners voted for the increase, Lopez said, “because we want to make more money, I guess.”
“I’m retired,” Lopez continued, “so I can dedicate myself to the commission full-time, so any time of the day or night, I can be there.”
County Manager Charlene Webb said it has been four years since elected officials received a pay increase, the last increase being when commissioners voted to increase B-Under county salaries to their maximum.
Commissioner Scott Burton said he did not pay much attention to the salary increase since it did not apply to him. He said he was unaware of the level of the percentage increase.
Commissioner Bill Cathey said he was also not aware of the level of percentage increase but he voted to increase salaries, so Roosevelt County would be on the same scale as other B-Over counties in New Mexico.
Commissioners Kendell Buzard and David Sanders did not return phone calls.
The following are the salary changes for future elected Roosevelt County officials:
• Commissioners: 40 percent increase
• Treasurer: 17 percent increase
• Assessor: 17 percent increase
• Sheriff: 16 percent increase
• Clerk: 17 percent increase