MESA COUNTY, Colo. (KKCO) - To help the County save money, employees were forced to take two days off last year without pay but 10 elected officials didn't have to do that. Monday, some decided to write a check to the county anyway.
Elected official's salaries are set in state law and are not subject to furlough days. When the county issued two furlough days for other employees last year, five officials thought it was unfair, so they wrote personal checks to give the money back.
Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland is one of five county officials who decided to write a check back to the County. "Initially with the furlough days, I assumed everyone would have pay deducted. Then we were informed that they can't deduct pay from elected officials. So, I offered to pay my portion with a check," she says.
Clerk and Recorder Janice Rich, Commissioner Steve Acquafresca, District Attorney Pete Hautzinger and Coroner Dean Havlik also wrote checks.
Although they weren't required to, Rowland says for her, it came down to one thing. "Just me personally, it seemed like the fair thing to do. To do what we were asking employees to do," she says.
Out of 10 elected officials, five decided to write checks to the county. Others donated to their favorite charity and some kept the money. But whether they gave back or not, Rowland says it was their choice to make. "I'm sure other elected officials have their reasons and I don't think badly of anyone who chose not to do that," says Rowland.
Pay from the two furlough days, Columbus Day and Christmas Eve, went into a general fund to help balance the budget. "We had two of those to save some significant dollars in a really tough budget year," says Jessica Peterson, Mesa County public relations director. Officials say the move kept about $440,000 in the County's bank account.
Rowland says she doesn't want recognition or praise for writing her check, but hopes that by giving up her pay too, employees will see she feels their pain. "My intent was to do my share like the rest of the employees," she says.
Sheriff Stan Hilkey is one of the elected officials who didn't write a check to the County, but a spokesperson for his office says he did make other changes to help out the county budget. Officials say the entire department of emergency personnel also went on furlough for two days so the rest of the County employees didn't have to go on furlough for four days.