Top 10, #5: After salary cut dispute, row officers start terms Monday at same pay
By Justin Strawser
SUNBURY - After a tumultuous public fight between two Northumberland County commissioners and four row offices over salary cuts of up to 48 percent, newly elected row officers will be sworn in at 11 a.m. Monday at the same pay rate as previous officers.
A preliminary injunction imposed by Centre County Senior Judge David E. Grine Nov. 8 has frozen the salary cuts, but the county has appealed the decision and is awaiting the court's reply.
Commissioners Stephen Bridy and Vinny Clausi initiated the plan to cut the salaries from 42 to 48 percent and make the row officers and other elected officials pay for 50 percent of the county's costs for their health care insurance. They argued the positions aren't full time and that the reductions would save the county $1.4 million over the combined four-year terms of the offices.
The reductions were enacted with a 2-1 vote Oct. 1, with Commissioner Rick Shoch opposed. On Oct. 22, Register and Recorder Mary Zimmerman, Sheriff Chad A. Reiner, Treasurer Kevin P. Gilroy and Coroner James F. Kelley sued, arguing the cuts were "furtherance of a plan and scheme" to undermine the ability of the officers to perform their duties and that the cuts and health care contribution increases violate state statute that requires equal treatment of all county employees.
The commissioners did not act to change the controller's salary, and the final row office, district attorney, has its salary set by the state.
The coroner's salary would drop from $53,834 to $30,500, prothonotary and register and recorder from $57,396 to $31,000, and sheriff and treasurer from $53,834 to $31,000 each. Coroner, prothonotary and register and recorder salaries were to change effective today, since elections for those positions were just held. The others would change Jan. 1, 2016, following the next election for those offices.
Outgoing prothonotary Kathleen Wolfe Strausser, who did not seek re-election, is not part of the lawsuit. She will be replaced by Justin Dunkelberger, who won election in November.
The commissioners' own salaries would drop from $61,000 to $31,500 as part of the plan, effective in 2016 as well. The change in health care contributions ups the monthly rates paid by the officeholder from $108 to $348 for single coverage; $175 to $694 for two-party, and $241 to $873 for family.