Salary cuts compared to other counties
Commissioners and most row officers in the fifth-class counties of Adams, Blair and Lycoming have higher salaries than the same officeholders in fifth-class Northumberland County, while the same positions in neighboring Schuylkill and Columbia counties in some cases pay considerably less.
The News-Item compared Northumberland County elected officials' salaries with those in neighboring counties and other fifth-class counties in light of Tuesday's re-vote on salary reductions proposed by Commissioners Stephen Bridy and Vinny Clausi. While the new rates were approved at a Sept. 4 meeting by a 2-1 vote, Commissioner Rick Shoch opposed, a mistake in advertising language for the initial meeting has prompted the re-do. (See chart, Page A7.)
Bridy has hinted at a possible variation in what he'll propose, but Clausi said he'll stick by the original change, which reduces salaries by 42 to 48 percent for the commissioners and all row offices except controller, for which a motion to reduce the salary was never seconded.
The new salaries would range from $30,500 to $31,500, although by law they could be reduced into the range of $18,000 to $19,000, or as low as $14,000 for coroner.
The controversial decision has been criticized by row officers, particularly the three - coroner, prothonotary and register and recorder - who are up for re-election this year and would have their salaries reduced Jan. 1. The commissioner, sheriff and treasurer salaries would not change until Jan. 1, 2016, after the next election for those posts in 2015.
Critics believe the reductions are too steep and sudden and would result in a drop in quality of public servants. Bridy, Clausi and their supporters maintain the positions amount to "part-time" and have been held by "career politicians."
They say they are setting an example by including the commissioner positions in the reductions.
Changes in public officials' salaries have to be made in a year in which there is no election for commissioners.
The new meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the county administration building in Sunbury.
The new rates proposed in Northumberland County would be lower for all positions in all five other counties studied except in one instance: Columbia County coroner.
That position, which would pay $30,500 starting Jan. 1 if the commissioners vote the same way Tuesday, right now pays $18,579 in Columbia.
The average for the other four counties, meanwhile, is closer to the $53,834 James F. Kelley makes today as Northumberland County coroner. The average for coroners in Schuylkill, Adams, Blair and Lycoming counties is $49,872; factoring in Columbia lowers the average to $43,614.
Salaries for commissioners in the other counties range from a low of $47,534 in Columbia to a high of $70,565 in Lycoming. The average among the five is $60,747 - within $300 of Northumberland County's $61,000.
A similar pattern exists for the other row offices, where several current Northumberland County rates are a little higher and some a little lower than the comparison counties. However, Columbia pays all of its elected officials less than the current Northumberland County rates.
(Attempts to get information on other neighboring counties and Lawrence, Lebanon and Mercer, additional Pennsylvania fifth-class counties, were unsuccessful.)
As part of the salary vote, Northumberland County commissioners also voted 2-1 to increase health benefit contributions by the officeholders to 50 percent. Shoch also opposed the health benefit contribution increase.
The change would be significant from what officeholders contribute now. For a single plan it rises to $347.88 per month, up from $108, a total of $4,174.56 per year. For two-party, it would be $694.32 per month, up from $175, a total of $8,331.84 per year; and for family it would be $872.97 per month, up from $241, a total of $10,475.64 per year, about one-third of the salary.
Elected officials in Adams and Blair counties are offered full-time medical benefits and receive compensation if they waive the benefits. The amount paid depends on whether or not employees have single, two-party or family coverage.
In Blair County, the commissioners and row officers pay $48 per month for single coverage, $107 per month for husband and wife and employee and child (children) and $126 per month for family coverage.
In Columbia County, the commissioners pay $77.59 per month toward the county's $569.03 per month for health insurance. The register and recorder pays $135.25 per month for health insurance toward the same county share per month. The prothonotary/clerk of courts pays $93.08 per month toward the county's monthly share of $396.98. The treasurer pays $362.64 per month toward the county's monthly share of $807.36. One of the county commissioners and the sheriff receive a monthly waiver of $225.56 for not receiving health insurance from the county.
Details on the other counties' health care contributions could not be obtained.
Recap of changes
A look at the changes to salaries and health benefits for Northumberland County row officers that were approved Sept. 4 and could be approved again Tuesday night (position; current and reduced salary and reduction percentage; who's serving; year new salary is effective):
- Commissioners: $61,000 to $31,500; 48.4 percent; Stephen Bridy, Vinny Clausi and Richard Shoch; 2016.
- Coroner: $53,834 to $30,500; 43.4 percent; James F. Kelley; 2014.
- Prothonotary: $57,396 to $31,000; 46 percent; Kathleen Strausser; 2014.
- Register and recorder: $57,396 to $31,000; 46 percent; Mary Zimmerman; 2014.
- Sheriff: $53,834 to $31,000; 42.5 percent; Chad Reiner; 2016.
- Treasurer: $53,834 to $31,000; Kevin Gilroy; 2016.
- Controller: $56,676; unchanged; Tony Phillips.
- District attorney: $172,270; unchanged (state sets salaries for district attorneys); Tony Rosini.