Meadville Tribune

Local News

January 29, 2013

County payroll increases despite no raises, fewer workers

MEADVILLE — Crawford County government employees got no annual pay raises in 2012 and the total number of full-time employees decreased by 2 percent.

Then how did the overall payroll increase .99 percent, or $214,732.01?

The answer lies in the union contracts of county workers. Those contracts include provisions for longevity pay increases separate from and in addition to annual pay hikes. And when the unions agreed to forgo annual pay increases for 2012, longevity increases were not given up. Under the longevity pay rules, workers reaching specified years of service receive increases of a certain amount per hour. The amount per hour and years of service that trigger these longevity increases vary from contract to contract.

That’s why the county’s payroll went up slightly even though there was a “pay freeze” and the overall headcount of full-time employees went down.

Asked why longevity pay raises weren’t frozen in 2012 along with the regular pay increases, Francis Weiderspahn, chairman of the county board of commissioners, wasn’t sure. Weiderspahn and his fellow commissioners weren’t part of direct contract negotiations, he said.

“I didn’t think about it,” Weiderspahn said. “There may have been some discussion about it, but it never came up in the (negotiation) reports we received.”

Jody Marley, the county’s chief financial officer whom Weiderspahn identified as being directly involved in union contract negotiations, said via email Monday she didn’t have a clear answer as to why longevity increases weren’t eliminated as well for 2012, “but longevity recognition at anniversary dates are not considered standard Jan. 1 raises.”

Attorney Ted Watts, who represents the county and also was identified by Weiderspahn as part of the county’s negotiation team, was unavailable Monday due to being on vacation, according to Watts’ office.

While all three of the county’s commissioners are pleased with limiting the increase in payroll, they caution that scheduled pay increases are back on for this year and some of the savings realized in 2012 came from keeping positions open.

“We’ve consolidated some positions,” said Weiderspahn, but also, “we’ve held off on filling some positions where we’ve had an opening.”

Weiderspahn cited, for example, an opening on the county maintenance crew that won’t be filled until later in the year.

Crawford County government’s total payroll increased less than 1 percent between 2011 and 2012 while the number of employees went down by 2 percent.

The county’s total payroll was $22,107,926.13 for 2012 compared to $21,890.194.12 for 2011, according to records from the Crawford County Finance Office. While the county’s payroll was up slightly, the number of employees was down by 12 as some positions were changed or consolidated. The county had 539 full-time employees in 2012, down from 550 in 2011, a drop of 2 percent.

“We’ve been working together to try to make things more streamlined and efficient,” said C. Sherman Allen, another commissioner.

“We’ve scaled back some,” said Jack Lynch, the third member of the county’s governing board of commissioners, “Some positions like chief financial officer and planning director that were open didn’t get filled until later in the year (2012).”

Some of the biggest personnel changes in 2012 came within the financial structure of the county and its Human Services Department.

The county combined separate financial officer positions for both the county and the Human Services Department into one post in June. That move had a small domino effect within the Human Services Department as two of six fiscal technician positions were named staff accountants with one fiscal assistant hired to replace one of two fiscal technician posts.

The county created a full-time attorney for the Human Services Department to replace hiring attorneys at hourly rates.

County commissioners created three additional full-time deputy sheriff positions to enhance security at the Crawford County Courthouse in Meadville. Those deputy positions, under the command of the sheriff’s office, were created to operate front door security at the courthouse that was taken over by the sheriff’s office. The three full-time deputies replaced four part-time metal detectors who had been under the direction of the commissioners’ office.

The county created one additional position for the adult probation department to handle sex offender registrations under the federally-mandated Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.

The county also eliminated one part-time guardian ad litem position, a person who represents the best interests of children in court cases, and replaced the post with a guardian ad litem/indigent adoption attorney.

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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