An updated Jackson County Charter is getting closer to the ballot, minus one contentious provision – raises for elected officials.

An updated Jackson County Charter is getting closer to the ballot, minus one contentious provision – raises for elected officials.

“I think at this time any kind of raise would be ill thought of,” County Legislature Chairman Henry Rizzo said. The county has been cutting spending for years, and employees haven’t had raises for three years. Rizzo said there’s no way elected officials should take even a dollar more until the county can afford raises for other employees.

Legislators on Thursday set a hearing on the charter changes for next Monday but voted unanimously to strip out provisions that would give raises to the county’s 12 elected officials. Some of the biggest charter changes include limits on professional services contracts and merging two ethics offices.

The task force that reviewed the charter for two months this spring also recommended specific salaries for elected officials, with adjustments for inflation once every four years. For the nine legislators, salaries would have risen from $25,920 a year to $28,916. The other three elected positions are full time. The county executive pay would have risen from $108,000 to $120,484, the prosecutor would have gone from $97,200 to $108,436, and the sheriff would have gone from $75,600 to $84,339.

Legislators and County Executive Mike Sanders stressed that the task force worked on its own and arrived at the salary proposal on its own. Currently, legislators set the salaries by ordinance – last adjusted six years ago – and with Thursday’s vote it would stay that way.

“That is the absolutely right thing for this body to do,” Sanders told legislators. He said the task force might have had a good idea in trying to find a way to keep salaries where they should be and that when times are better the county might want to revisit the issue, “but that day is not today.”

The task force’s idea was to remove politics from the issue, but some have said it hasn’t worked out that way.

“People ought to be able to stand up and take the heat” when they set salaries, even their own, said Legislator Greg Grounds, R-Blue Springs. He said he opposes any raises for legislators.

The task force forwarded its recommendations to the Legislature two weeks ago, and legislators have said they wanted time to look those over carefully. Still, they are facing a looming deadline – Tuesday – to meet a request by Sanders, who wants the changes on the ballot in August to avoid a potentially confusing situation on the ballot in November.

Here’s the hangup: If voters approve the changes in August, no further charter review is needed for 10 years. However, the charter as it stands today requires that the voters be asked this November if they want to have a charter review. If they were to say yes, the process would start over again. To avoid having two contradictory questions on the ballot in November, Sanders has pressed for an August vote since the beginning of this process 10 weeks ago. Rizzo, who last week said legislators might let it slide until November, on Thursday said he’s comfortable now with August and generally comfortable with the changes.

“I think the ethics thing is a priority,” he said.

Still, legislators cautioned that the hearing Monday could turn up new information.

“So we would love to have any kind of input anybody would have,” Rizzo said.

The task force also held two hearings during its review. Only one citizen spoke to the group. Sanders and Legislator Dennis Waits, D-Independence, both cautioned the Legislature against making sweeping changes this late in the process.