SIOUX CITY | Some Woodbury County assistant attorneys are paid $84,668 in base salary. But that isn't enough, according to County Attorney P.J. Jennings.

Jennings, who oversees the office, said it is important to provide extra pay for the longest-tenured assistant attorneys to make their salary more substantial. During Tuesday's budget review for the 2014-2015 fiscal year, he asked the County Board to set a dedicated budget amount of $15,000 to pay five tenured attorneys a performance bonus.

Assistant attorneys with at least 12 years of tenure have been paid an annual $3,000 performance bonus since 2001, when the county added the perk in a negotiated contract.

All assistant attorneys who have reached the tenure threshold in recent years have received the $3,000 bonus. The County Board budgeted $6,300 for that expense a year ago, and the current fiscal year budget contains $3,000.

While that wasn't enough to pay all the bonuses over the last two years, Jennings made up the difference with unused funds from other department categories.

County Board members declined to place any money in a budget line item solely for bonuses. They will return to the topic again before the final budget is set in March.

County Budget Director Dennis Butler said the issue is vexing, because "the public doesn't like" that county employees receive bonuses.

Assistant County Attorney Mark Campbell said the bonus system provides a higher rate of compensation for tenured assistant attorneys who have topped out on the county pay scale. He said it also reduces the pay gap between the county attorneys and public defenders.

"Even with that (bonus), our people are underpaid when compared with the public defenders," Campbell said.

The Woodbury Country assistant attorneys with 12 or more years of service are Dewey Sloan, Jill Esteves, Terry Ganzel, Drew Bockenstedt and Jayme Kirsch.

All five assistant county attorneys are currently making $84,668 in base pay, before any bonuses are added. Negotiated raises in fiscal year 2014-15 will increase that amount to $86,362.

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County and education reporter

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