$20,000 pay raises for county officials

By Krystal Allan - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - In a 2 to 1 vote, Harrison County supervisors voted in favor of a $20,000 pay raise for Tax Collector David LaRosa, Tax Accessor Tal Flurry and County Administrator Pam Ulrich.

During a meeting on Monday, Supervisors William Martin and Kim Savant voted in favor of the raise while Supervisor Connie Rocko voted against it.

Supervisors Swetman and Ladner were absent from the meeting.

Supervisors Martin and Savant say LaRosa and Flurry had provided them with information and research showing their pay was not on par with tax collectors and assessors in other counties.  The two had also met with various supervisors before the meeting.

During some heated moments in Monday's meeting, Supervisor Connie Rocko admits she added Ulrich to the group for a raise even though Ulrich had not asked for one.

"In the heat of passion I said, there are people like Pam Ulrich all over the county that deserve raises, but because of the state of the United States and the state of our state and our economic woes, we are unable to give those raises. I do apologize for that, and I will make sure it (Ulrich's pay raise) is rescinded in Monday's meeting," says Rocko.

Swetman says he isn't against the pay raises, but thinks the pay increase is too much.

"I have no problem with a budget amendment for $20,000 for their departments nor do I have a problem with accessor and collector receiving a pay raise, but an individual raise of $20,000 in today's economic climate is excessive," says Swetman.

Tax Collector, David LaRosa is leaving the decision in the board's hands as to whether they should revisit the issue.

"It's up to the board to determine whether we get the increase.  If they don't grant it, I'll be happy with that too.  I don't mind being last in pay; I just want to be a little closer to other elected county officials," LaRosa says. .

Meanwhile, Tax Assessor Tal Flurry says, "We did research on counties statewide on tax assessor and collector pay. We would never have asked for the raises if we were already in line with others doing the same jobs in other counties."

Pam Ulrich says, "I did not ask for the raise, but I will meet with the supervisors before making any decision on whether to rescind that proposal."

The board already approved a fee increase for residents a couple of months ago, whereby the cities would pay the county more for the services it provides.

Flurry and LaRosa argue the raises wouldn't result in any pay increases for tax payers. They say it would come from the general fund.  LaRosa further defends his pay increase proposal saying his department generates double the amount of money it receives from the county.

No matter how the board decides, according to Swetman, it won't have the final say.

"Ultimately how they spend those dollars, they have to answer to the taxpayers just like I do every four years," Swetman says.

Both Swetman and Rocko say they would like for the full board to vote again on Monday.

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.