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Council reverses course on pay for employees switching offices

January 16, 2019
The Crawford County Council, meeting in regular session last Tuesday, admitted that it made a mistake when it adopted the 2019 salary ordinance in December.

The council last month discussed whether three employees who, at their own choosing, would be switching offices within the judicial complex on Jan. 1, should start at the bottom of the pay scale for the office they were moving into, per the salary schedule adopted in 2017, or if their years of service should carry over to their new position. The consensus was they should be treated as new hires for their respective offices.

Those employees, along with their office heads, disagreed and were in attendance last week to ask the council to reconsider. One of those asking the council to change its position was Auditor Christian Howell, who hired Leisha Terrell, who had been the child support clerk in the Prosecutor's office for the past 6-1/2 years.

"She is taking a $1,500 pay cut to come do a difficult job," Howell said. "Plus, she is taking on additional tasks that that job did not consist of before. So, she's actually helping the Surveyor's office and doing that job plus a couple of other things that I plan on giving to her to do. So, I just ask that she be raised to the fourth-year rate at what the last employee was making."

Recorder Jessica Villegas named Tammy Procter, who served 16 years as county assessor and eight years as recorder before that, as her deputy. She replaced Lisa Holzbog, who moved to the Circuit Court Clerk's office after being elected last fall.

Villegas said Procter knew she would be taking a pay cut but didn't realize it would be as much as it was. According to the county's annual pay schedule, which includes four levels for courthouse employees, maxing out after year four, she would be making $24,100 if considered a new hire. However, if she was at Level 4, her pay would be $26,022.

Holzbog said that she, too, should be at Level 4 considering she served the past four years as Villegas' deputy. The difference in annual pay for a first-year circuit court clerk and one with at least four years of experience is $2,055.

"I feel like I have been demoted instead of promoted," she told the council. "I was elected by the county, the people that pay our money. I just feel that taking that pay cut is unfair."

Councilman Jerry Brewer agreed.

"I voted for this, voted for the salary ordinance. It was a mistake. I was wrong," he said, explaining it wasn't clear and that people, like Holzbog, signed up to run for office thinking they would be receiving a certain level of pay. "I would support them getting what they're supposed to get."

Marcus Burgher IV, the county's attorney, said the confusion comes from what the county considers the definition of "longevity" as laid out in the salary ordinance. Does longevity refer to continuous years of service with the county or just a particular office, he asked.

"If it is," Burgher said, referring to the former, "it probably needs to be a little bit clearer in the salary ordinance in the future to say that you don't transfer positions and say you don't keep your longevity that you had in another office, or, if you intend to do that, then you go ahead and pay people for the number of years that they've been (employed)."

Howell said she was under the impression that it affected only new hires.

Council President William Breeding said the purpose behind the pay schedule was good, but it hasn't been without problems.

"The intent of this salary ordinance, it had good intentions, but it's been a pain in the butt," he said. "The intent was to give the employees a raise and support it by new employees coming in starting at a lower pay. So, new employees wouldn't come in and start" at the same pay as someone who had worked with the county for several years.

Following a motion by Brewer that previous years of consecutive employment with the county be included when determining pay level that was seconded by Councilman Chad Riddle, the council voted 7-0 to clarify the term longevity.

While the council didn't increase the base pay for new Assessor Michael Carlisle Sr., since this is his first year employed with the county, it did add an additional pay amount for him being a Level III-certified assessor.

The salary ordinance already called for an assessor with Level I or II certification to be paid an additional $1,000 above the regular salary. However, with Carlisle being the county's first assessor to have Level III certification, the council voted 7-0 to pay an assessor with that certification level an additional $2,000 above the base pay.

Included in the motion made by Councilman Lucas Stroud and seconded by Councilwoman Sharon Wilson is that a deputy in the Assessor's office with Level III certification will receive $1,000 above the base pay. The salary ordinance already called for a deputy with Level I or II certification to receive an additional $500.

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