Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Missoula County commissioners on Tuesday approved the compensation board's recommendation for a 3% cost-of-living increase for elected officials – a move that also provides an increase for non-union county employees.

Under state law, the compensation board is required to meet annually to review the pay of elected officials. Recommendations for any increase is based upon the rate of inflation, county growth and other measures.

“We comparatively look at other counties across the state to determine compensation,” said county CAO Chris Lounsbury. “They were looking at a 3% cost-of-living adjustment for elected officials. It's in keeping with what's happening for our non-union personnel staff.”

The Missoula County attorney remains the highest paid elected official with a total salary now set at $148,865, followed by the Missoula County sheriff at $147,748.

The three county commissioners will earn between $109,000 and $112,000 depending on longevity, while the two justices of the peace will earn $121,000. The clerk and treasurer will earn $129,000.

State law also requires that when the sheriff's pay increases, deputies within the department, including detention, must earn a percent of what the sheriff earns. As a result, deputies will also see a pay increase.

“The way it works in state law, if elected official pay doesn't change, then neither does the deputies,” Lounsbury said. “It's more than just elected officials.”


Missoula County two years ago settled a wage claim brought by current and former deputies, who alleged they were entitled to three years' worth of unpaid wages based upon the earnings of the county sheriff.

The $3.4 million settlement, followed by wage increases in line with that of the sheriff, has helped fill a number of openings. At the time, the detention center had 19 openings and the deputy division had six.

“Now for the first time in a long time we're fully staffed,” said Commissioner Josh Slotnick. “Investing in deputy-wage increases yielded a return in now that we're fully staffed.”