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Your tax dollars at work: A glimpse at what city, county and school officials are paid

WORTHINGTON -- How much money did you make in 2016? Care to say that figure out loud, or are you among the majority of people who would say it's nobody's business?...

Image: John Landgaard
Landgaard

WORTHINGTON - How much money did you make in 2016? Care to say that figure out loud, or are you among the majority of people who would say it’s nobody’s business?

Working in the public sector, where your paycheck is the very result of your friends and neighbors - and even you - paying taxes, the amount of money you earn is a matter of public record.

Do you want to know what the school superintendent made in 2016? All you have to do is ask. The same goes for your city and county administrators, city councillors and county commissioners.

Just as the salaries, per diems and reimbursements for those public servants are a matter of public record, so too are the salaries of their staff.

So, with a new year upon us, the Daily Globe wanted to know just how much our elected public servants earned in 2016. While we were at it, we also asked what the 2017 salaries are for some of the top city, county and school officials.

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Without further adieu, how much did they make?

The top dogs Administrators, tasked with overseeing employees and reporting to their respective boards, are often considered to have the highest salaries, but that isn’t necessarily the case. In both the city of Worthington and Nobles County, the administrators have been in their positions for less than four years, while some of their department heads have more than 30 years experience.

Leading the payroll is ISD 518 Superintendent John Landgaard, with a 2017 salary of $155,000. Landgaard was hired to lead the school district in 2003.

Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson, who began his duties in February 2013, will earn a salary of $126,984 this year; while Worthington City Administrator Steve Robinson, at the helm since March 2015, will receive a salary of $105,060.80 in 2017.

Leaders of the pack Employees who are considered department heads within the city or county, or serve in leadership positions in the school district, are compensated based on experience, education and tenure. For this category, the leaders of the pack are broken down by entity and ranked from highest to lowest paid. Since the salaries of elected officials (who also serve as department heads) were published in December, they are not included.

At the county level, employees are paid based on grade and steps. Once they’ve reached the top of the grade and step, their only pay increase is a cost of living adjustment, which is 2 percent in 2017.

Nobles County:
Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder: $113,027.20
Community Services Director Stacie Golombiecki: $101,129.60

Finance Director Jerry Vyskocil: $80,288
Library Director Clint Wolthuizen: $80,100.80

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Human Resources Director Sue Luing: $75,670.40
Information Technology Director Angelo Torres: $75,670.40
Assessor Val Ruesch: $73,361.60
Emergency Management Director Joyce Jacobs: $58,260.80

City of Worthington:
Utilities Manager Scott Hain: $124,675.20

Engineering Director Dwayne Haffield: $110,219.20
Finance Director Brian Kolander: $107,057.60
Public Safety Director Troy Appel: $101,691.20
Economic Development Director Brad Chapulis: $100,339.20
City Clerk Janice Oberloh: $85,300.80
Public Works Director Todd Wietzema: $74,859.20

ISD 518:

High School Principal Joshua Noble: $106,351
Middle School Principal Jeff Luke: $104,718
Prairie Elementary School Principal Heidi Meyer: $94,923
ALC/VIBE Principal Nate Hanson: $98,188
Full-time teachers within the district receive an annual salary that ranges from $40,001 to $70,931.

The public servants Since the city, county and school board all receive public funds to operate, each must have elected individuals to oversee their finances and activities. The Nobles County Board of Commissioners is comprised of five people representing commissioner districts. The City Council is also served by five elected members, two from Ward 1, two from Ward 2 and an at-large council member. ISD 518’s Board of Education is comprised of seven elected board members.

To look at the public costs for these positions, we asked the city, county and school district to provide details on how much these elected officials earned as flat salary, in addition to per diems and any reimbursements they collected during 2016.

Nobles County:

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Commissioners were paid an annual salary of $18,354 in 2016. Adding in per diems and reimbursements, their total income ranged from less than $21,000 to more than $30,000.

Following are the amounts paid to each commissioner:

District 1 Commissioner Marvin Zylstra: $2,865 in per diems; $2,000.20 in reimbursements; plus salary, his total income was $23,219.20.
District 2 Commissioner Gene Metz: $6,290 in per diems; $5,655.89 in reimbursements; plus salary, his total income was $30,299.89.

District 3 Commissioner Matt Widboom: $2,045 in per diems; $200 in reimbursements; plus salary, his total income was $20,599.
District 4 Commissioner Robert Demuth Jr: $6,270 in per diems; $3,838.73 in reimbursements; plus salary, his total income was $28,462.73.
District 5 Commissioner Donald Linssen: $4,190 in per diems; $2,276.12 in reimbursements; plus salary, his total income was $24,820.12.

The per diems earned by commissioners are paid for their attendance at board and committee meetings related to their position. Each of the five men served on between 27 and 31 committees during 2016.

According to Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson, commissioners are only paid a per diem if they are the delegate or alternate on a board or committee.

“They can choose to go to other committee meetings, but they can’t charge for them,” he said. “Sometimes they don’t put in per diems if they’re meeting in town and they’re already at a county meeting. The commissioners aren’t going to charge three per diems if they have three, four or five meetings in a day.”

City of Worthington:

Like Nobles County commissioners, Worthington City Council members receive an annual salary, plus per diems and reimbursements. Their 2016 pay information follows:

Mayor Mike Kuhle: $10,000 salary, plus $2,350 in per diems and $933.38 in reimbursements equalled total income of $13,283.38.

Ward 1 Councilman Rod Sankey: $6,000 salary, plus $2,150 in per diems and $403.95 in reimbursements equalled total income of $8,553.95.

Ward 1 Councilman Larry Janssen: $6,000 salary, plus $2,350 in per diems and no requests for reimbursements equalled total income of $8,350.
Ward 2 Councilman Scott Nelson: $6,000 salary, plus $3,050 in per diems and $197.64 in reimbursements equalled total income of $9,247.64.

Ward 2 Councilman Mike Harmon: $6,000 salary plus $3,900 in per diems and $1,949.63 in reimbursements (reimbursement included $1,035.38 for Harmon’s trip to Cuero, Texas, to represent the city of Worthington during Cuero’s Turkey Fest) equalled total income of $11,849.63.

At-Large Councilwoman Diane Graber: $6,000 salary, plus $3,350 in per diems and $30.24 in reimbursements equalled total income of $9,380.24.
ISD 518:

According to Dave Skog, director of management services for ISD 518, the district’s seven school board members receive a flat rate to attend regularly scheduled board meetings. All other meetings, such as committee meetings, work sessions, special board meetings or conferences are paid on a per diem basis based on the length of the meeting. A meeting that lasts up to two hours equates to a per diem of $30, while a meeting from 2-4 hours in length provides a per diem of $60. Meetings that last four to six hours offer a per diem of $110, and meetings over six hours in length equate to a per diem of $160.

In 2016, the board chairman (Stephen Schnieder) received a salary of $3,125. With per diems and reimbursements, his total school board income was $6,088.32.

Lori Dudley received $5,043.29 in compensation, per diems and reimbursements, while Linden Olson received $4,576.89; Brad Schaffer received $3,902.31; Ann Mills received $3,831.92; Scott Rosenberg received $3,725; and Joel Lorenz received $3,641.60.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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