Wage Committee Recommendations Aired To County Council

(photo supplied / Times-Union)

Before Kosciusko County Council went through the county departments’ budgets for 2020 Monday night, the wage committee presented its recommendations to the council for new employees and salaries.

Not all of the recommendations were approved, and the recommendations weren’t always everything the department heads asked for in their proposed budgets.

Councilman Jon Garber, a member of the wage committee, said in its recommendation for the clerk’s office, members of the absentee in-person voting board should receive $90 per day, with the Democrat judge poll board receiving $120 per day.

In the assessor’s office, the committee recommended one part-time commercial assessor limited to 25 hours per week, and in the Purdue Extension Office one part-time program assistant limited to 25 hours per week was suggested. It recommended one full-time/part-time financial deputy in the auditor’s office, with an hourly rate based on a financial deputy’s full-time hourly wage.

The committee recommended one full-time human resource deputy for the county administrator; one full-time bailiff for Circuit and Superior I courts; one full-time home detention officer for Community Corrections; and one full-time road patrol deputy for the sheriff’s office. The recommendation for the jail was two full-time confinement officers, one full-time Jail Chemical Addiction Program coordinator and one part-time cook limited to 25 hours per week with an hourly rate based on a cook’s full-time hourly wage. One full-time E911 dispatcher was recommended for Central Dispatch.

For the prosecutor’s office, one part-time paralegal assistant/legal assistant limited to 25 hours per week, with an hourly rate based on paralegal assistant full-time hourly wage was recommended.

Finally, the wage committee recommended 2% wage increases for full- and part-time county employees and board wages. The county council approved the 2% wage increase by a vote of 6-1, with Councilman Mike Long voting against it.

Long said, “I have a hard time with 2% across the board for everybody. Every department has a good and a bad, and if you’re making 80,000, 2% means a whole lot more than if you’re making 40,000. We just came through last year and realigned it, if you will, because of the disparity in the upper paid positions and the lower paid positions. I just feel it would be better served to take that block of money and give it to the individual departments and allow the department heads to manage their department, and reward the best and motivate the rest hopefully.”

Councilwoman Joni Truex said the 2% does not require a department head to give each employee 2%. “That is a guideline. That is the max. They can give zero,” she said.

As the council reviewed each department’s budget, they then voted on the new position requests in each department, if any.

The first new position request was in the Purdue Extension Office for a part-time STEM program assistant. The council approved Director Kelly Heckaman’s request.

Assessor Susan Engelberth got the additional part-time assessor she sought, but not the vehicle for her office. She explained that she wanted a vehicle for her office because when her office rents vehicles, the cars often have out-of-state license plates which confuses the public.

Some people have even called 911 asking why a vehicle with an assessors sigh has out-of-state plates. Engelberth said most assessors in other counties have their own vehicles.

Councilman Doug Heinisch asked if an analysis was done on car rentals versus assessor employees using their own cars and getting paid mileage. Engelberth said the employees don’t like to use their own vehicles because of the wear and tear on them, including dog scratches, stone damage and rough terrain.

“We tried that. That’s why we’re now renting cars daily. And that’s $32.29 a day for a car,” she said, noting they try and use the car all day when it’s rented. “But there’s not a lot of people who want their personal car scraped up.”

The 44 cents per mile in mileage doesn’t cover the damage to a vehicle, Engelberth said.

Councilman Mike Long made a motion to deny Engelberth’s request for a vehicle, and his motion was approved 4-3. Voting against his motion was Truex, Garber and Ernie Wiggins.

Auditor Michelle Puckett said the new full-time/part-time position she requested for 2020 will help with internal controls, grants and other work. The new financial deputy position was approved.

Ann Torpy, county clerk, told the council, “I submitted a request to the wage committee to increase the pay for our absentee board, and that’s in-person voting. They work 7.5 hours a day, five days a week, and then the last two Saturdays they work seven hours. We currently pay them $60 a day, or $8 per hour, and this increase will move them up to where we’re equal with some of the other counties in the state of Indiana.”

She said they’re very busy, and with the presidential election next year she expected them to be even busier.

“And then the state changed how the voting machines are delivered to the polling locations, so we requested an increase to the Democrat judges’ salary to equal the inspector because they have some of the equal responsibilities as to what the inspector does at polling locations. So those are the two increases, plus overtime pay preparing for next year,” Torpy said.

Both wage increases were approved.

Under the commissioners budget, County Administrator Marsha McSherry and Commissioner Cary Groninger requested the new full-time position of human resources specialist.

“I’ve provided you with some information as far as the number of open claims we have, as far as work comp, FMLA, the number of new hires we’ve had this year is 53, 25 of those are part-time and 28 have been full time, just in background information on the time it does take to process those,” McSherry said.

Truex made a motion to deny the new HR specialist position, but it failed 3-4 with only Truex, Kim Cates and Doug Heinisch voting for the motion. Long made a motion to approve the $44,000 position and it was approved 4-3 along the same council lines.

The council also tabled Animal Welfare League’s nonprofit budget request from the county for 2020 until Thursday’s meeting. Groninger said the county is working with the AWL to convert it to a more contractual service instead of a nonprofit, such as a per-animal fee for services. He hoped they’d have an answer for the council at its meeting Thursday.

For all the other nonprofit budget requests for 2020, the council approved a 2% increase as recommended by the commissioners. St. Joe River Basin’s request will remain unchanged and the money to the Bowen Center is dictated by the state.

Jail Commander Shane Coney requested two confinement officers, a JCAP coordinator and a part-time cook – though he really wanted four confinement officers. He told the council, “We do all extraditions. So far this year, we’ve done 24 out-of-state extraditions to go out of state and get warrants. All my guys do that. It’s just we’re so busy, I need four more.”

According to a jail analysis completed in March 2018, Coney said, it said he needed eight, but he only asked for half of that for next year.

He also wanted an additional transport officer. “I’ve done over 520-some transports to date,” he said.

Truex made a motion to approve four full-time confinement officers, a full-time JCAP coordinator and a part-time cook, but that motion died 2-5, with only Truex and Cates voting for it. Cates then made a motion for three jailers, the coordinator and the cook, but it also died. Long then made a motion for two jailers, the coordinator and the cook and it was approved 5-2.

Sheriff Kyle Dukes asked for two new patrolmen, but was only approved for one.

Central Dispatch Director Sarah Lancaster requested two additional dispatchers, but she also only was approved for one.

A new bailiff for Superior Courts I, IV and Circuit was approved, as was a new home detention officer for Community Corrections.

Prosecutor Dan Hampton informed the council that he could fund the one part-time paralegal assistant/legal assistant, that the wage committee recommended, through other budgeting means.

“I would ask for a little help in the problem that I am having in the criminal division with staff. I have the investigator slot, of which my investigator, who has been with me since 2003, is going to retire at the end of this year. That’s a new problem that just came up last week for my office because, as the judges have already articulated, as you all know, the felony filings have increased from 80 a month to approximately 130 to 135 a month. That’s a significant increase and that all goes through my investigative division, of which I have one full-time investigator, and I’ve supplemented with three part-time investigators,” Hampton said.

He asked that the council let him come back before them at Thursday’s council meeting to discuss the position further, which they did.

A new case worker under the IV-D budget also was tabled to Thursday’s meeting.