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Sheriff petitions county for salary increase

Dennis Hillstead has announced his intentions to bow out of the next election for St. Croix County Sheriff after 12 years in the position.

In the meantime, the county has been asked by the outgoing sheriff to steadily increase the salary for the position in each of the next four years to make the job attractive to qualified candidates.

The current salary for 2010 set for the county's top lawman is $80,225. "I would recommend a two percent increase in each of the (next) four years be approved," Hillstead said in a letter to the finance committee members dated March 3.

Hillstead cited sheriff's salaries in several counties across the state with a similar number of people as the 83,000 population of St. Croix County. The salaries ranged from more than $94,000 in Ozaukee County with a population of 86,000 to $75,165 for Jefferson County with 81,200 people, according to the sheriff's calculations.

In neighboring counties, Pierce, Polk and Dunn sheriffs' salaries ranged from $68,000 to $78,000 each with nearly half the population of St. Croix County.

A likely candidate and front runner in the Nov. 2 election is Chief Deputy John Shilts. If the sheriff's salary stays frozen and the administrative deputies get a raise, Shilts' salary could become greater than the sheriff's without the added stress and cost of an election campaign.

The chief deputy's current salary is $79,165, at the top level. The chief deputy's salary hasn't been increased since 2008, said Tammy Funk, the county's human resources administrator.

A study commissioned by the county board on the salaries of non-union employees recommended a raise for a number of positions including chief deputy. The proposed salary for the top grade chief deputy is $86,408, outstripping the current salary of the elected position held by the sheriff by a considerable margin.

The county has not yet adopted the proposed changes recommended by the study.

The county finance committee didn't act on the sheriff's request at its March meeting. The committee is expected to address the issue of elected official's salaries at its Friday, April 9 meeting, according to the agenda.