Commissioners discuss prospect of giving VA director pay raise

VA board recommends $6 hourly increase

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MIO — The prospect of whether the director of the veterans affairs department will receive a raise resurfaced and was once again tabled at the Feb. 26 county board meeting.

The discussion began after commissioners tabled the decision on whether the director, AJ Welser, would receive a $6 per hour raise and four hour per week increase to his allotted weekly hours.

Previously the VA board was under the impression that it could make the decision to give Welser the raise. After contacting the Michigan Association of Counties the commissioners found that it was actually up to the county board to decide how much and when the director could get a pay raise.

While some commissioners, like Kyle Yoder and Chuck Varner, said they believe Welser deserves a raise, the commissioners were all in agreement that they would need more information before deciding how much it should be for. Welser and members of the VAboard were in attendance and were a part of the discussion.

Varner said some county employees were expressing dissent about how much money the increased hour allotment and pay raise would amount to annually.

“I’m getting some major pushback because this is a $12,000 raise for a part-time employee,” he said. “… This is an uneven raise for the rest of the employees of the county.”

Commissioner Libby Marsh said before she could make a decision on the pay or hourly increase she would need more information than what she had been given so far.

“If I vote on a motion I need to be able to explain to the people I represent why I voted for something,” she said. “I have not been given this information yet.”

VA board President Rick Landry said while he believes the commissioners are supportive of the VA, he thinks the director deserves the raise. He said the VA board’s decision to give Welser a raise was widely supported, and was not initiated by Welser. He argued that Welser goes above and beyond what is required of him in the position and is very successful at helping veterans.

“Support for veterans and of the elderly is a lot better here in the county than anywhere else I’ve been,” Landry said.

Welser said whether he receives the pay raise or not he will still be working diligently

“Whether or not I get paid for those hours I will still be working them,” Welser said. “I understand I also work for the county, and for the taxpayers, and I do not want to cause any issues for them.”

Varner said while he believes Welser deserves a raise, he thinks there needs to be more discussion about the amount.

“I think AJ is doing a good job and he deserves a raise,” he said. “I think what we should do is sit down and determine what a fair raise is. … There is a process that has not been followed here.”

Varner suggested a possible solution could be to start Welser off with a smaller raise, and incrementally increase it if the county determines it is a good decision down the road.

Landry said while he was hoping Welser would have been given the raise at the meeting, he is open to further discussion.

“I was very disappointed this was tabled again,” he said. “Maybe we can look at doing the incremental raise starting at $3. My recommendation is that the county gives him a raise as soon as possible.”

VA board member Frank Beek asked the commissioners to look at surrounding counties before coming to a decision.

“Before you make a decision will you look at other counties that offer similar service?” he said. “We did that. I was ashamed to find what we’re giving him comparatively.”

At the end of the discussion it was the consensus of the board to do more research and make a decision at another meeting.

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