The Washington Times-Herald

August 22, 2013

County budget pitches include raises

By Mike Grant Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald

---- — The opening proposals for the Daviess County budget has most officials asking for pay raises for their employees. The County Council budget hearing Wednesday saw office holders requesting raises ranging from one thousand to $1,500 for all full time workers.

"I am requesting a $1,500 raise for my employees to improve morale and to keep good people," said county Clerk Sherri Healy. "It takes time to learn the job and I want to keep them."

County Highway Superintendent Phil Cornelius also requested raises for road workers. "We lost two good people last year and it was all about money," Cornelius said.

The Prosecutor's office and Sheriff's office both requested flat one thousand dollar annual increases. Officials say that when insurance costs went up last year that the employees take home pay actually dropped.

"I looked at a realistic number," said Prosecutor Daniel Murrie. "I wanted them to get back their net pay plus a little. It's really about a $300 or $400 raise."

Several officials say that because of unfunded mandates from the state they are also seeing their workload increase. "We are doing more reports than ever," said Auditor Gail Doades. "I can't commend my staff enough. They stay late and get the work done."

While nearly all of the officials were asking for flat dollar increases for salaries, county Treasurer Elaine Wellman took a different approach. She proposed a 5 percent across the board raise for all employees in her office. "I'm just looking to off-set the money they lost with the health insurance increase."

State changes may also mean that at least one courthouse position will have to go to full time. Veterans Officer Grant Chambers told the council the Indiana Department of Veterans wants all county officers to be accredited by the Veterans Administration. Chambers says that will mean he will have to go through additional training, upgrade some of the equipment in his office and go from part-time to full-time.

"It is going to be a good step toward eliminating some of the hassles for veterans trying to secure their benefits," said Chambers.

Salaries are just part of the mix in a budget that includes rising insurance costs, utilities and capital expenses. The council is not surprised by the requests for more pay, but also is not ready to make a commitment.

"It's an overall thing," said County Council President Mike Myers. "We have to look at the rest of the needs for the county. We have to hear everyone's rationale."

Raises this year may have to compete with facilities in the budget. The council members peppered both the judges and the probation office with questions about the need for increased security. The Community Corrections office is preparing to relocate, and a committee has been formed to look at the overall needs for space in the county offices.

"Right now we're exploring options," said Doades. "We are in the very preliminary discussions."

The county has 186 full-time employees, including elected officials. The council has now heard the pitch for pay raises and will make a final decision when it meets to vote on a final version of the budget in two weeks. "I'm going to speculate that $1,500 may be at the upper end," said Councilman Mike Sprinkle. "Some deserve more, some deserve less."

"Overall the financial health of the county is good," added Myers. "I think there will be raises. These people are deserving. It just is going to depend on what the rest of the needs are in the county to determine how much those will be."