New Castle News

January 8, 2013

Your Tax Money: Salary board gives county employees raises

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Lawrence County government employees are all getting raises this year.

The county salary board unanimously approved 3 percent pay hikes for all non-union and salaried employees.

All county employees who are members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union Local 2902 will receive raises of 3 percent or $500, whichever is higher, for 2013.

And all employees of the Construction and General Laborers Union Local 964 will receive straight 3 percent wage increases.

All elected officials in the county will receive raises of 1.8 percent, based on the Consumer Price Index. The elected officials’ raises are all pre-approved by a county ordinance which is in place, Commissioner Chairman Dan Vogler explained.

Voting at Monday’s board meeting were the three commissioners — Vogler, Steve Craig and Bob Del Signore — and Controller David Gettings.

President Judge Dominick Motto cast the fifth vote for matters concerning the courts.

The board also approved various position and wage changes in various departments. The changes, by department, are:

COURTS

Creating a temporary full-time confidential secretary position at $26,002, without benefits.

Motto explained a judge’s secretary is off on extended medical leave and someone from court administration is filling in. The new position would fill the open job in court administration.

“The plan is to leave that person with the judge and put the new person in the slot where she was,” he said. When the employee returns from sick leave, “we’ll put everybody back” and the temporary position will end.



ADULT PROBATION

Creating a temporary probation officer position at $34,932, without benefits, while another person is off and not receiving pay.



DISTRICT JUDGE

JENNIFER NICHOLSON


Abolishing a part-time judicial aide position and created a full-time position at $29,991 plus benefits. The vote was 4-1 with Vogler opposed.

Nicholson explained her office is bogged down with traffic violations and her employees must keep track of timeliness of fines and tracking accounts and court dates.

“We have hundreds and hundreds of payment schedules,” she said.

She has three full-time and one-part time employees and “traffic is where the money is,” she said, noting her office annually collects the most money in traffic fines among the five district judges.

An exception was the office of Scott McGrath last year, because of an Interstate 376 construction project in his jurisdiction that created more traffic citations.

According to a list of income collected by each judge’s office in 2012, McGrath’s office collected $521,125, Nicholson’s collected $496,595, Jerry Cartwright’s, $411,270; David Rishel’s, $392,150 and Melissa Amodie’s $272,125.

Nicholson pointed out that one judge whose office is always at the bottom of the list for income has more staff than her office.

That is Amodie’s court, which sees a larger load of criminal cases.

Nicholson’s list shows she has the highest number of cases overall each year, including 2012.

Nicholson said she had requested the full-time position in her budget this year, and it amounts to $5,510 more than the part-time position, plus the cost of benefits.

Vogler pointed out other departments have similar situations where offices with part-time employees would feel justified in making them full time.

The county adopted a tight budget this year without a tax increase and “I’m very concerned about how we will be able to replicate that a year from now,” he said, adding he would be voting against the position change.



PUBLIC SAFETY

Readjusting the salary structure of the 12 full-time and six part-time communications dispatchers and the four full-time supervisors. The amount would not exceed the 3 percent allocated for raises this year, Brian Melcer, public safety director, said. The vote was 4-0.



PUBLIC DEFENDER

Creating two full-time court-related specialists and abolishing two part-time positions of paralegal and secretary. The vote was 3-1 with Vogler opposed to both moves. Craig, Gettings and Del Signore voted yes.

“Every time they give the DA a new attorney, my client numbers grow exponentially,” public defender Larry Keith explained. The total salary increases for both positions amounts to $11,000, Keith said. The substantial increase is in the benefits, because of the union rates, he said.

“My office doesn’t generate money, but I save the county money by the efficient running of my office,” he said, noting the judge has commended him for a quick and smooth movement of the trial lists.

“I don’t believe I will be able to keep up the success of 2012 unless I have my support staff in place,” he said.

Craig asked how many death penalty cases are coming up in the courts this year, and Keith responded there are four for certain, possibly five. He and assistant public defender Dennis Elisco are both certified to defend death penalty cases, which saves the county from having to hire someone from outside.

“We’ve put a budget together for this calendar year, and we don’t have a machine that prints money in this building,” Vogler told him, noting the money the county receives is from the taxpayers.

“Until we see more growth, revenues will stay fairly flat,” he said, adding he would not support the change in the positions.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)