Article VI-38 of the Constitution of the State of WV titled, “Salaries of officials cannot be increased during official terms” states, in part, “…Nor shall the salary of any public officer be increased or diminished during his term of office, …”.
When I was in school, I studied Civics and learned that a Constitution was very important. My teacher, Mr. Brienner was passionate that Constitutions are hard to change by amendment for a reason. Foundations are not to be altered by every change in the people selected for service in elected public office. Also, he taught me that the Judicial Branch of the government provides the interpretations of the Constitution for the applications of daily life in the United States.
So recently I read, with astonishment, that the WV legislature provided in WV Code 7-7-1 and 7-7-4 a 12% pay increase to “elected county officials”, but only if the county commissioners, sheriffs, county and circuit clerks, assessors, and prosecuting attorney of WV counties qualify. To qualify, at the very least from my research, the County must submit the 2014-2015 budget for approval of the State Auditor to see if there are sufficient funds to provide this raise and the elected official abide by the following from WV Code 7-7-4, “ (B) Each county commissioner or other elected official described in this subsection in office on the effective date of the increased salaries provided by this subsection who desires to receive the increased salary has prior to that date filed in the office of the clerk of the county commission his or her written agreement to accept the salary increase. The salary for the person who holds the office of county commissioner or other elected official described in this subsection who fails to file the written agreement as required by this paragraph shall be the salary for that office in effect immediately prior to the effective date of the increased salaries provided by this subsection until the person vacates the office or his or her term of office expires, whichever first occurs.”
I interpret all this, in the short version, to mean. Since there has been the WV county property tax reappraisal and that the counties have collected more tax money from this, the funds collected are there to pass the auditor test. Also, that the WV Legislature is permitting county elected officials to increase their salaries during their term of office IF THEY WRITE A LETTER TO THE CLERK REQUESTING THE RAISE!
To conclude this installment, have I missed something? Please, someone provide the constitutional basis of this legislative act. Another thought, why the hurry? Why can’t the raise wait until the constitutional requirement of the official’s re-election is met?
Thomas W. Klus