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County employees may get 3-percent raise for ’09

The Harrison County Council began looking at salary requests from county agencies for the first time last Wednesday night. It was the first of many meetings to determine the 2009 budget.
Among the requests were 12 new positions, which in some cases don’t involve new employees but new job titles, as is the case with the auditor’s office. Pat Wolfe, the county auditor, requested four new job titles, including chief deputy and three first deputies. The auditor requested just over a 5-percent increase for all of her employees.
The assessor’s office requested four new positions, including a chief deputy and three second deputies. Assessor Lorena Stepro requested just over a 10-percent raise. Stepro took control over assessing duties for the entire county following the approval of House Bill 1001.
The sheriff’s department requested two new road officers; however, the county commissioners’ recommendation to the council was not to provide the two new officers.
‘It’s a huge expense when you put another officer on the road,’ said Goldman.
The sheriff’s department also requested another jail receptionist and two court officers, which again was not recommended by the commissioners. The sheriff requested a 32.05-percent raise, from $84,821 to $112,000, for his annual pay and a 16.02-percent increase for his chief, Capt. Eric Fischer, which would raise his salary from $38,788 to $45,000.
David Simon, the county building maintenance supervisor, asked for two new employees, including a general maintenance technician and a custodian for the old hospital. The commissioners did not recommend funding the new custodian, saying the building will most likely not be in use in 2009. Simon requested an increase of 10.49 percent in annual pay from $47,700 to $52,700. The county added three new buildings Simon must look over this year, including two medical office buildings and the old hospital.
The council agreed to give county employees a 3-percent raise across the board last Wednesday night except for salary lines subject to review, in which case the council could give more or less than a 3-percent raise. Councilman Ralph Sherman suggested the 3-percent raise.
‘The taxpayers are not getting a break; we have to be careful we don’t over tax them,’ said Councilwoman Rhonda Rhoads. ‘Their wages don’t change.’
‘How do you know?’ asked Councilman Gordon Pendleton. ‘I don’t think we can say other people don’t get a raise.’
‘This is my fourth budget go-round; we’ve done 3-percent every year. It seems like a good number,’ said Councilman Chris Timberlake. ‘I like the number but not across the board. I think there are some salaries we need to reign in.’
Council chairman Carl (Buck) Mathes said the department heads deserve more than a 3-percent raise.
‘The high-end people get shorted with 3-percent,’ he said.
Sherman made the motion, which was seconded by Pendleton, to give all employees a 3-percent raise except for specific salary lines the council takes under review. Timberlake joined them in voting in favor of the motion. William T. (Bill) Nichols, Leslie Robertson and Rhoads all were opposed. Mathes broke the tie, voting to approve the measure.
Mathes then asked the board if there were any lines or employees who should get more or less than 3 percent.
‘I’m content to wait until the hearing process,’ said Timberlake.
Robertson and Rhoads also said they wanted to wait until the hearing process, which is scheduled to begin Aug. 4.
‘I’ve got a couple I want to bring up,’ Mathes said. ‘You can shoot me down if you want to.’
Mathes made the motion to give Greg Reas, the county’s Emergency Management Agency director, $42,000, up from $33,000 this year. Reas requested $52,000. Reas has a new responsibility as dispatch supervisor which includes the oversight of 11 employees in dispatch.
‘It’s a thankless job, and he’s taken on a whole lot of extra responsibility,’ said Commissioner James Goldman.
Pendleton seconded Mathes’ motion, which failed with a 3-4 vote. Nichols joined those in favor, but Timberlake, Robertson, Sherman and Rhoads voted against it. Pendleton then made the motion, seconded by Mathes, to give Reas $40,000, and that motion failed with the same 3-4 count as the previous vote.
Mathes then made the motion to cut the salary of the public health coordinator, Tony Combs, from $47,000 to $42,000 for next year. The health department requested a 5-percent raise for Combs, totaling $49,350. Pendleton seconded Mathes’ motion, which failed with all other council members opposed.