By Damian Mann
For the Tidings
A salary hike of nearly 10 percent that will boost Jackson County's top administrator's pay to $170,060 is justified, commissioners said Thursday after signing off on an almost-perfect performance review.
County Administrator Danny Jordan received just over $155,000 in the last fiscal year, but a combination of a 4.46 percent cost-of-living increase and a 5 percent merit hike will add more than $15,000 to his salary for the year that began Wednesday.
"You've done an extraordinary job last year," said Commissioner Dave Gilmour.
Jordan's pay and salary hike might be unpopular among many county residents, acknowledged Gilmour, who also is chairman of the Board of Commissioners. He said he and other commissioners are prepared to defend their decision, particularly when the county finds itself on a very sound financial footing compared with just a few years ago.
"The average person on the street doesn't run an organization of 900 people or have the fiduciary responsibilities of this county," said Gilmour.
Jordan oversees a budget of $350 million that is made up of federal, state and local revenues that are affected by myriad laws and regulations.
All three commissioners praised Jordan, who has been credited with helping the county amass more than $70 million in reserves.
In addition, the county carved $7 million out to build a new emergency call center to replace the existing center housed in the Jackson County Courthouse, which was deemed unsafe in the event of an earthquake.
In his performance review, Jordan received almost a score of 4.8 out of a possible 5.0. A 4.0 mark is reserved for employees who exceed requirements, while a 5.0 far exceeds requirements.
Out of 12 different criteria from leadership to communication, Jordan received perfect marks in most categories. Jordan got a slightly less than perfect score because he still needs to improve code enforcement, and the county still is adjusting to a new management structure at the counsel's office, commissioners determined.
Over a five-year period starting in 2007, the county estimates it will generate $62 million in savings in the general fund because of reductions in the cost of libraries, community justice, the sheriff's office, the Jackson County Expo, parks, the retirement program and historical societies.
In addition, the county this year saved $1.9 million from reductions to the clerk's office, the county counsel and development services.
The cuts resulted in the loss of more than 21 full-time employees.
In total, the county cut just over $13 million out of its general fund budget in the 2008-09 fiscal year.
Gilmour said he thought Jordan's salary was far less than many chief executive officers of corporations and is less than many primary care physicians.
In Lane County, the county administrator, who oversees a full-time staff of 1,440 and a budget of $515 million, earns $154,512.
The Deschutes County administrator, who has 840 full-time employees and a budget of $281 million, is paid $141,000.
In Multnomah County, directors of large departments of 600 to 900 people earn between $108,000 to $166,000 annually. For smaller departments, the range is $93,000 to $144,000. For this fiscal year, the county is forgoing cost-of-living and merit increases.
Medford's City Manager Mike Dyal will make $144,281 this year after getting a 3 percent cost-of-living increase.
Former County Administrator Sue Slack made $132,000 when she retired in 2006.
Gilmour said the county under Jordan's leadership now is at a point where it could survive without infusions of the federal timber money that has provided the county with as much as $23 million annually in recent years.
Because the right financial choices have been made, he said the county will not ask voters for any new taxes to pay for county services, a prospect that was being discussed a few years ago.
In 2008, commissioners received a 26 percent wage hike. Their salaries went from $68,432 to $86,341 a year.
Gilmour said he still doesn't take the 26 percent wage hike or many of the county's benefits, which he said more than makes up for Jordan's increase.
Commissioner Jack Walker said Jordan has brought the kind of energy and sense of fiscal responsibility that he has hoped for over the 15 years he's been in office.
"It's just amazing to me the way he's been able to get things done," said Walker.
Commissioner C.W. Smith said he often gets questioned by other counties in the state that are struggling with their budgets.
He said the combination of detailed department audits, disciplined approaches to the budget and creative ideas often are difficult for other counties to comprehend.
In his 30 years working for the public, Smith said, "I've never ever seen a government work as efficiently as this one has."
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.