Carbon County's elected officials will see a pay increase in 2016 and 2017.
During a special county commissioners' meeting on Tuesday evening, the board voted 2-1 to increase the county's elected officials salaries by 1 percent in 2016 and 2 percent in 2017. Commissioner William O'Gurek cast the sole "no" vote.
His explanation for voting against the raises was two-fold.
The first reason, he said, was because "I think in these difficult economic times I'm not in favor of the row office people getting an increase."
The second reason, which led to a discussion, was that he was under the impression the elected officials were given proposals that stated row office positions would be getting 3 percent raises each year and then right before the meeting, O'Gurek was given a different agenda that reflected the new raise percentages.
Commissioner Wayne Nothstein, chairman, explained to O'Gurek that the 3 percent raise proposal was not sent out to elected officials for comment but was an in-house document for informational purposes.
County administrator Eloise Ahner confirmed Nothstein's comment, stating that the first proposal was never disseminated to others outside the commissioners' office.
Commissioner Thomas J. Gerhard added that the change from the original proposal came about after Nothstein asked him if he would be happy with a 1 and 2 percent raise for the elected officials instead of a 3 percent raise.
He noted that he said he would be happy with those percentages.
The action last night now means that the county commissioners will receive a 1 percent increase to $65,200 in 2016 and a 2 percent increase to $66,504 in 2017. They will not receive salary increases in 2014 and 2015, which was previously set in 2010. In 2014 and 2015, the commissioners will each receive $64,554, which is the current 2013 salary rate.
The county treasurer, controller, recorder of deeds, sheriff, prothonotary and clerk of courts will also receive a 1 percent increase for an annual salary of $58,342 in 2016 and a 2 percent increase or a total of $59,509 in 2017. Like the commissioners, these officials will receive no increase in 2014 and 2015. They are currently earning $57,764.
Additionally, the register of wills/clerk of orphans court, which is a dual office, will receive $59,526 for register of wills with an additional $2,000 for clerk of orphans court in 2016 and $60,757 with an additional $2,000 for clerk of courts in 2017; the coroner will receive $27,589 in 2016 and $28,141 in 2017.
Nothstein said that it's hard to predict what the future will hold for the county in 2016 and 2017.
He then reminded the board that he and Gerhard plan to return their 2013 pay raises, which was a 2 percent increase over 2012's salary that was determined in 2009.
"We just need to figure out what the best way is to do it," he said.
Gerhard said that there was talk about writing a check back to the county monthly, which will then be deposited into the general fund.
"I think with us raising taxes, we are doing what we can do on our part," he said. "We didn't feel it would be fair to take a raise when our employees did not receive a raise. I hope that the other elected officials would do the same."
Gerhard then asked O'Gurek if he plans to give back his 2 percent raise.
O'Gurek said that would be willing to but his intention is to wait and see what happens with the current contract negotiations between the county and two of its unions before he figures out what to do.
The board voted on the salaries for 2016 and 2017 because article three of the state constitution "Board of Commissioners (must) fix the salaries of elected county positions before persons actually run for and get elected to those offices" and "prohibits increases in the salary of any public officer during his or her term of office."
The treasurer, register of wills, and clerk of courts seats are all up for grabs in this year's election.
The commissioners must also set the commissioners' salaries in advance because they are not allowed to vote on their own salaries during their term in office.
All three commissioner seats will be up for election in 2015, meaning that the board could be made up of new individuals when these increases take place.