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Commission opposes $25K pay raise for probate judge

The Butler County Commission on Monday passed a resolution opposing a proposed bill that would increase the probate judge’s salary by more than $25,000 a year.

If House Bill 447 and Senate Bill 369 are approved, a salary increase could go into effect in 2019 for all 67 probate judges across the state. Salaries would be based on a percentage of the salary of a state district court judge according to the population of the county, and would be adjusted based on years of service. It also includes a guaranteed step increase each year, according to County Administrator Diane Kilpatrick. If a probate judge currently is paid more than the new figure his salary would not be impacted by the bill.

According to county officials the current salary for the Butler County probate judge is $88,310. If the new bill is passed, current Probate Judge Steve Norman’s salary will increase to $114,190.

The probate judge’s salary comes from the county’s general fund.

“This should be a county-by-county decision based on the revenues of each county — what they can afford and what they cannot afford,” said Commissioner Frank Hickman. “It should depend on whether or not a probate judge is the chairman of the county commission, has additional duties or whether he doesn’t have those additional duties. There are a lot of variables in this and it should be local government making the decision and not the State of Alabama shoving it down our throat. There should be a movement in this state to allow county commissions to have more say in their own government as opposed to unfunded mandates coming out of our legislature. Therefore, that’s the reason I support this resolution (opposing the bill). It has nothing to do with our probate judge.”

Commissioner Joey Peavy said he felt that the commission provides raises to county employees when possible.

“I don’t think the state should mandate what we have to do,” Peavy said. “I think we do a good job of providing pay increases to our county employees as we can. We can’t always do it, and that’s unfortunate, but to mandate it isn’t right.”

Commissioner Jesse McWilliams said his support of the resolution had nothing to do with the job Norman has done as probate judge.

“This bill is a hard bill because we try to get along with our elected officials and support our elected officials where we can,” he said. “I have the utmost respect for Judge Norman and his job, but it’s very hard to look at someone and say they need a  $25,000 raise when you have other employees that don’t get the perks that are going on with this.”

The bill is currently being discussed in Judiciary Committee of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.