Northumberland County salary board to address raises, work hour requests
SUNBURY - When the Northumberland County Salary Board gathers Tuesday for a special meeting, the commissioners won't only hear Coroner James F. Kelley's request to discuss a Dec. 27 vote to enforce a salary board policy that prohibits part-time employees from receiving full-time benefits.
Commissioner Vinny Clausi said six other requests for additional employees, raises and working hours will also be on the agenda.
Both Clausi and Commissioner Stephen Bridy will be voting no to all requests, they said.
"Everybody lined up at the trough," Bridy said Sunday. "We passed a budget. Where are we going to get money for raises?"
The original intent of the meeting was to clarify points of contention in the coroner's office: whether chief deputy James Gotlob and deputy Barry Leisenring are part-time employees and whether their health benefits should be revoked.
While Kelley agreed to consider Leisenring part-time, he argues Gotlob is full-time and should be able to receive health care insurance at the same rate paid by other county employees rather than 50 percent of the county's premium.
The change in premium has been in effect since Feb. 1, raising the rate for Gotlob, who has a two-party plan, from $175 to $694 a month, or from $2,100 to $8,328 a year, if he chooses to keep the county coverage. The new annual rate would represent more than 56 percent of his $14,762 salary.
The deputy coroners are not eligible for other full-time benefits such as vacation time, holiday pay or pensions.
The coroner had previously said his deputies' 24/7 on-call status gives them full-time status, and that they deserve to keep full-time benefits because of the health risks inherent in their jobs.
Commissioner Rick Shoch said he supports Kelley, who will be providing documentation to show his claims have been established by vote in the past.
"It's only fair to reinstate it. I firmly believe this has been a swipe at his department," Shoch said.
Kelley could not be reached Sunday for comment.
According to Clausi, Prothonotary Justin Dunkelberger, Register and Recorder Mary Zimmerman, District Attorney Tony Rosini, Controller Christopher Grayson, President Judge William H. Wiest and acting Sheriff Robert J. Wolfe all submitted requests.
To the tune of $280,000 over five years provided the employees and their salaries remain the same, Dunkelberger wants to change his employees' work week from 35 to 40 hours.
Zimmerman is requesting an additional $1,200 per year for each of the two supervisors in her office.
Wiest is asking for a raise for his own secretary and Judge Charles Saylor's secretary. The amount of Wiest's request was unavailable Sunday.
Wolfe wanted a raise for his first deputy, but he withdrew the request after a conversation with Clausi about the county's financial hardships.
Clausi, however, will ask the salary board to hire someone in the sheriff's department to fill Wolfe's open position, which was vacated after Wolfe was appointed acting sheriff when Chad Reiner resigned.
Grayson is asking for one of his current employees to fill a vacant position at a lower salary rate, then use the difference to increase the wages of another employee in his office.
Rosini, who is asking the board for additional employees, submitted his request late Friday, and it won't be on the agenda Tuesday, Clausi said.
Clausi is convinced Shoch, Grayson and each department head will vote in favor of each raise, hour increase or employee hiring. That would leave him and Bridy on the short end of a 3-2 vote.
"That's morally wrong and political," Clausi said.
Shoch said the department heads have plans to keep the changes budget-neutral, and they will be presented at the meeting.
He doesn't know how he'll vote yet, he said.
If Shoch votes in favor of the raises after not voting for the 2014 budget, Clausi said he would appoint Shoch the budget coordinator and "wash my hands of it all."
Shoch said he would take on that position and do away with the budget department and incorporate those responsibilities into Grayson's office.
Source of money
Both Clausi and Bridy wonder what makes these employees believe they should receive raises and more hours over the county's other 113 employees.
Private-sector employees have not seen raises in years, therefore it's not fair to the public taxpayer to vote in favor of these changes, Bridy said.
"They know where we're at financially. I would assume they know we're near the 25-mill threshold. Where do they expect us to get the money?" he said.
It's upsetting to attempt to save every penny the county has, but then give it away, Bridy added.
He and Clausi urged their fellow elected officials to think twice before voting.