April 1, 2023

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Sticker Shock: JoCo Payroll Spikes Beyond Rate of Inflation

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Johnson County government’s top paid employee makes nearly three times the median household income in the county and two-and-a-half times the annual salary of the Kansas Governor.

Pranahitha Reddy, Johnson County Chief Medical Officer, rakes in an annual salary of $245,648, compared to the median household income of $82,892 in the county. The county boasts a number of well-paid doctors, including two staff psychiatrists who earn more than $213,000 apiece. The county government salary numbers don’t include often lucrative benefit packages.

Kansas Policy Institute collects municipal and county salary data in the state’s most populated cities and counties annually. Those counties collectively increased payrolls by 4.4 percent last year, outpacing inflation of 1.7 percent. Johnson County government’s payroll increased by 4.1 percent.

The think tank lists the 15 highest paid county employees, and Johnson County government employees take eight spots on the list. Four of those, like Reddy and the two staff psychiatrists, have medical training. The other highest paid JoCo employees include the county manager, the deputy county manager, chief counsel, and the county appraiser, Paul Welcome.

Welcome’s $194,669 salary far outpaces the median salary for appraisers and assessors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for a county government assessor was $53,230 in 2016, the latest date for which BLS data is available.

Welcome plays a direct role in determining exactly how much the county revenue is available, because he evaluates how much Johnson County properties are worth. The county commission then uses his assessments on homes, industrial and commercial properties to determine property tax rates, a primary source of revenue for the county.

According to commercial property attorney Linda Terrell, every big box store in Johnson County is challenging the values Welcome set for their properties this year. She told a Kansas Senate committee this month that there’s a perception that appraisers who work at the pleasure of a county commission have an incentive to value properties based on how much commissioners have to spend.

“Whether that’s reality or not, that’s the perception,” she said. “If they were state employees, you couldn’t draw that direct line between what the county needs assessments to be and what the county wants to spend.”

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