Washington County officials back 20% pay raises for election workers

Election worker Jacob Todd of Rogers carries a box of ballots Tuesday May 24, 2022 at the Washington County Sheriff’s office in Fayetteville.  (NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. Wampler)
Election worker Jacob Todd of Rogers carries a box of ballots Tuesday May 24, 2022 at the Washington County Sheriff’s office in Fayetteville. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. Wampler)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Election staff and poll workers in Washington County could see 20% pay raises in 2023, if the Quorum Court approves a recommendation from the Election Commission.

The commission unanimously approved a motion to seek the 20% pay increases for election staff and poll workers. Jennifer Price, election director, said the election workers are considered to be part-time employees and pay increases were not included in county's 2023 budget approved last week by the Quorum Court.

Price said the proposed increases reflect increases approved for similar positions in the County Clerk's Office. According to Price there are four comparable positions in the County Clerk's office and the pay for those positions was increased by 19% for one of the four and by 20% for the other three.

Overall, Price said, raises for Washington County employees averaged about 17%. The 20% pay increases, for six election staff workers, would add about $62,000 to the commission budget for 2023. The increase in cost for poll workers would depend on the number and size of elections held in 2023.

Price said the election staff and poll workers are all considered part-time employees and the positions aren't graded or assigned a pay range as are full-time county positions. She said it's normal for the commission to have to ask for pay increases separate from the other county employees for that reason.

Max Deitchler, a member of the Election Commission, said the county needs to have experienced and knowledgeable election staff and poll workers and the pay increase is merited.

"Our employees should make just as much money as folks in the County Clerk's office doing comparable work," Deitchler said.

Renee Oelschlaeger, commission chairman, said the county needs to recognize the work of the election staff and poll workers and pay them accordingly.

"You want people to know we're not minimizing the contributions they make," she said.

The commission also voted unanimously to recommend a 5% pay increase for Price. The commission gained approval of a 15% pay increase for Price earlier in 2022, bringing her pay to about $63,000, and Oelschlaeger said the additional 5% is warranted by Price's job performance.

Lisa Ecke is justice of the peace for District 6 and chairman of the Personnel Committee. Ecke said the election staff and poll workers should have been included in the normal county budget process and said she would prefer requests for pay increases be brought to the Quorum Court before the budget is final. Ecke said she would have to research the pay for election staff in similar-sized counties, Pulaski and Benton, to evaluate the pay requests.