Damakant Jayshi

After a lengthy discussion at the Executive Committee last month and a discussion early this week, the Marathon County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a 3 percent pay raise to take effect next year.

The annual raise for each supervisor, beginning when a new Board is sworn in next year, is $165 (and $170 from January 2023), taking their salary to $5,656 and $5,826, respectively. The Board also raised the supplemental pay for standing committee chairs from $600 to $800. Beginning in 2022, standing committee vice-chairs will also get an additional $200. Vice-chairs do not currently receive additional pay beyond their annual supervisor salary.

There was no raise since 2017, when the salary of supervisors was increased and the Board chair’s pay doubled. In 2019, the Board voted to cease a rule created in 2009 that raised salaries by 3 percent automatically each year, but that rule was restored in April 2020.

County Clerk Kim Trueblood told Wausau Pilot & Review that the annually 3 percent increase rule first went into effect on Jan. 1, 2009.

“In the years leading up to 2009, the exact salary was listed in the Rule Update that was done every 2 years with each new board,” she said.

At the Executive Committee meeting on Oct. 20, Board Chair Kurt Gibbs (Dict. 32) said it was high time the committee considered increasing the additional pay for standing committee chairs and vice chairs “to compensate for their extra workload”.

Gibbs was responding to Supervisors Matthew Bootz (Dist. 13) who opposed the raise for all the supervisors, terming across-the-board raise unfair.

“My work has gone up a lot in the past couple of years,” said Bootz, who is chair of Public Safety Committee, adding that it would come as a shock to find out how (little) time some supervisors were spending for county work. He said that instead of the raise, the saved amount could be used to meet the cost of televised meetings. Jean Maszk (Dist. 24) said it was not a good idea to penalize hard-working supervisors because of those who didn’t work as hard.

Gibbs agreed with Bootz on doing away with universal raise.

“The amount of workload and the equity as far as the workload amongst the supervisors (is concerned), there is obviously additional fee that could looked at,” the chair said. He suggested increasing the compensation for committee chairs and their deputies. 

Subsequently, on Nov. 9, the Human Resources, Finance and Property Committee acted upon this suggestion, by budgeting an additional $200 for committee chairs and including a new supplemental pay of $200 for committee vice-chairs for the next Board.

During its adjourned annual meeting the same day, the Board approved the new pay structure by a vote of 30-6. Supervisors Matthew Bootz (Dist. 13), Bill Conway (Dist. 16), Kelley Gabor (Dist. 8), Brent Jacobson (Dict. 26), Jacob Langenhahn (Dist. 35) and Ka Lo (Dist. 5) voted against the raise. Supervisor Chris Voll (Dist. 23) was excused and one position is vacant on the 38-member board.

Langenhahn and Lo said they opposed the raise since their constituents were hurting and it would not be appropriate to take a raise. Langenhahn noted that he was taking that position after voting to approve the annual budget for 2022. The budget was passed unanimously just before Langenhahn and other supervisors spoke. But the budget was approved before the discussion on the supervisors’ salary took place

Most other members, however, justified the raise, saying it was an appreciation for the time and work done by the supervisors. It was a necessity to attract talent, a fact pointed out by a number of supervisors – John Robinson (Dist. 4), Sara Guild (Dist. 20), and Jeff Johnson (Dist. 6) – both at the County Board and Executive Committee meetings.

Robinson, who is also chair of Human Resources, Finance and Property Committee, said that the raise was in line with the raise for county employees.

Some supervisors – Guild, Bruce Lamont (Dist.36), Jonathan Fisher (Dist. 38), Michelle Van Krey (Dist. 1) and Jenifer Bizzotto (Dist. 2) also argued that a number of supervisors depended on it to carry on with their county responsibilities.

“I’d do this stuff (county supervisors’ work) for free because I love it,” Supervisor Michelle Van Krey said. “But not everyone is in the same position as I am to be benevolent like that.” She added that the small raise would have minimal impact on the county’s overall budget. The fiscal impact for 2022 is $9,510. The budget for 2022 is $190 million.

Urging her colleagues to approve the raise, Krey suggested that members who did not want the raise could donate the funds to their community. Robinson had also offered this idea at the Executive Committee meeting.

Per existing law, the Board has to vote by a two-thirds majority to increase or decrease the pay for the new slate of supervisors taking office every two years in April. This has to be done on Dec. 1, when nomination papers for the election for the Board are filed. Supervisors cannot increase or decrease their salary while serving the current term.

(For Marathon County’s approved salary, click here. For its initial proposal, click here and go to page 21.)

Neighboring communities show mixed record on salaries

Some bordering counties and those with similar population like Marathon’s, which U.S. Census figures show is at 138,013, (138,013 as per U.S. Census 2020) have increased the pay for the next term; others have not. In some cases, raises have not been approved for years. 

Among those with approved increases are in the city of Stevens Point and Walworth counties. In Portage County, with a population 70,377, the difference in the payment for their board chair and supervisors is stark, even with an identical two percent raise.

The Board of Supervisors in Eau Claire (105,710), La Crosse (120,784) and Rock Counties (163,687) did not raise salaries, while Rock County’s most recent attempt to do so, in April 2018, failed.

The table below shows annual salaries for 2022, unless otherwise indicated. Most counties raises take effect for two years. All salary figures are annual (unless otherwise stated) and have been provided by meeting packets or county clerks. In case of Marathon County, vice-chairs of standing committees will get $200 a year, in addition to their base supervisor’s salary, beginning 2022. The standing committee chairs’ supplemental pay will see a boost of $200, making it $800 a year.

(All population numbers are based on Census 2020 estimates.
mtg = meeting; hrs = hours; cmt = committee)

County (Population)Chair
Vice Chair
Std. Comm. Chr.
Raise/No raise
Marathon (138,013)$30,900 ($900) $9,261 ($270)  $6,456 ($365)  $5,656 ($165) Yes, by 3%
Portage (70,377)$25,300 + $68/mtg$52/mtg $52/mtg $52/mtg Yes, by 2%
Eau Claire (105,710)
$4,675 +$30/mtg$1,836 + $30/mtg (for 1st vice chair$1,326 + $30/mtg (also for 2nd vice chair) $1,326 + $30/mtg  No raise (after 13% raised in 2019 for 2020-21)
La Crosse (120,784)$2,800 + mileage as per state rate$1,400 (for 1st and 2nd vice chairs) + mileageNo mention$700 + mileageNo raise
Sheboygan (118,034)$11,000 flat$2100 + $1000
+ $35 for mtg less than 4 hrs and $70 for mtg over 4 hrs
No mention$2100 + $35 for mtg less than 4 hrs and $70 for mtg over 4 hrsNo raise. Last raised in 2019. Raise review done every 5 yrs.
Walworth (106,478)$11,400 (-$6000)$7,800 ($600) $7,800 ($600)$7,800 ($600) Yes, for all. Chair’s pay reduced
Rock (163,687)$5,199.96 (no info on per diem)$2,599.92 (no info on per diem)No mention$50 for mtg less than 4 hrs and $70 for mtg over 4 hrsNo raise since 2005. Last raise attempt, in 2018, failed 
Wood (74,207)$21,800 + $50/mtg$1,800 + $960 (1st vice chair) + $50/mtgNo mention$1,800 + $50/mtg No raise since 2014
Shawano (40,881)
(No raise in recent years)
$5,000 + $75 for Board mtg and $70 for cmt mtgsNo mentionNo mention$4,932 No raise. Last raise years ago.
Lincoln (28,415)
$7500 flatNo mentionNo mention$70/mtgLast two raises in 2006 and 1996, respectively
Langlade (19,491)$7,500 + $60/mtg ($20 for mtgs over 4 hrs)No mention$60/mtg ($20 for mtgs over 4 hrs)$50/mtg ($20 for mtgs over 4 hrs)
Table of Wisconsin’s select county board salaries