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Council gambles on assessor's salary

Says no to Extension secretary

September 18, 2013
While is wasn't as contentious as the discussion regarding the pay of the new comptroller, the Crawford County Council, at its 2014 budget adoption session last Tuesday, spent quite a bit of time debating whether to increase the assessor's annual pay by almost $3,000 and whether to fund a secretary's position at the Extension Office.

In the end, it said yes to the former and no to the latter.

Council president Jerry Brewer proposed bumping Assessor Tammy Proctor's base salary from its current $27,124 to $30,000. The reason is so she will run for another four-year term in 2014.

Brewer said the state now requires assessor candidates to have Level 3 certification, which few people in the state, and none in the county, to his knowledge, have. Fortunately, he said, current assessors with Level 2 certification, like Proctor, will be grandfathered in for another term. Otherwise, the state could appoint someone for the county to contract with, which likely would cost far more than an additional $3,000, he said.

Brewer said Proctor indicated that she hadn't planned on running for another term, but he asked if she would with a higher salary.

Sherry Barnes, the office's chief deputy, who also has Level 1 and Level 2 certification, said the test to receive the Level 3 certification is extremely difficult.

"I'm looking at the best interest of the county" Brewer said, noting that, if there isn't anyone in the office, property tax bills will not be sent on time.

Even if someone is contracted to fill the position, the person wouldn't be an elected county employee, he said, adding the public will not receive the same level of service.

Councilman Joey Robinson agreed that it makes sense to pay a little to ensure that the county will not have to pay much more.

"I still say that I think that $3,000 is a small price to pay to keep from even taking a chance," he said.

Councilman Steve Bartels, however, disagreed with increasing the base pay. Instead, he said, the base pay should remain the same with a graduated schedule based upon the levels of certification.

In addition to her base pay, Proctor also receives $1,500 for having a Level 2 certification. She also gets longevity pay and the June supplemental — currently $1,000 — like the other full-time county employees.

Turning its attention to the Extension Office, Brewer, admitting there has been some negative history with Purdue University, which oversees the program, over the past year or so, said the council should attempt a fresh start and fund its share of both educator positions as well as that of the secretary, which it funds completely.

Others disagreed. However, even then, they disagreed on what positions should and shouldn't be funded.

Randy Gilmore, president of the board of commissioners, which just recently hired a secretary through the end of the year, encouraged the council to fund the position for 2014.

"We need her more than we need a second educator," he said, explaining the secretary's job description includes enough work for three people and, in his opinion, includes things that the educators should be doing.

District 1 Commissioner Daniel Crecelius added that the secretary often is the only person in the office, as the educators often are in other counties.

Councilman Doug McLain questioned why the council would want to cut back to one educator after having already done that a year ago only to then agree to fund the second position a few months later.

"We need somebody that's going to be in Crawford County," Gilmore said.

The secretary's position, if it would have been filled for the entire year, would have had a salary of $23,579. In contrast, the county's share of the two educator positions is $39,860 plus mileage reimbursement. Whereas the secretary position is funded out of the General Fund, the educator positions are contracts paid from the Orange County Riverboat Admissions Fund.

Part of the frustration a year ago stemmed from Extension officials, unhappy with the job performance of the secretary, said they didn't need a secretary. Several council members last week questioned why they need one now, to which Brewer said it was really about them not being pleased with the person.

"Let's let bygones be bygones and try to work with Purdue from this point," he said.

His plea, Brewer said, would be to fund the secretary's position, as well as that of both educators, and give the situation time to see if things can improve.

"I think we have to go a year to see if we can try to mend the fences," he said.

Councilman Jim Taylor, however, disagreed, making a motion to fund the secretary position and just one of the educators. Robinson seconded the motion, but it failed, as they were the only two to support it.

After taking a break from the issue to tackle other parts of the budget, Brewer asked who would be in favor of funding the secretary position. Failing to secure the five votes needed for salary decisions, the discussion continued.

McLain asked Brewer why he has switched his position from recent discussions .

Brewer said everyone involved is carrying baggage regarding the matter, and he asked if that was fair.

"I have changed my mind," he said, noting the office needs a secretary regardless of what Extension officials said a year ago.

Gilmore, who along with Crecelius said they are going to have more of a presence in the office to monitor things, agreed with Brewer.

"I just think you need to put aside the problems with Purdue and hire this person for Crawford County," he said.

Failing to receive the necessary support, the position went unfunded for 2014.

In another matter, the council voted to increase the June supplemental, which it has given to employees in lieu of raises for the past several years, from $1,000 to $1,500.

Bartels, Robinson and Taylor said the council should not get the supplemental, saying council members are not full-time employees.

"I will not vote for my raise ever," Bartels said, explaining they are part-time elected officials who already are compensated. "To ask to be more compensated, I will not do it."

Taylor, who ended up voting for it, said he will do like Bartels has done and donate his supplemental pay to charity.

The session, which began at 8 a.m., adjourned at 6:05 p.m., after the council voted 6-0 (Councilwoman Sharon Wilson left early), in separate motions, to approve the General Fund and all of the other budgets, with the exceptions as noted above.

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