Salary squabble takes floor at county meeting

By SARAH PAEZ

spaez@lockhaven.com

LOCK HAVEN — A personnel salary discussion turned heated at Thursday’s Clinton County commissioners’ voting meeting.

Prothonotary Marie Vilello said she was “very disappointed” that commissioners planned to approve a $34,281 salary for Monica Bee, new first deputy in the prothonotary’s office.

She said she had requested Bee’s salary be set at $38,000 annually, taking into account her seven years of experience and training in both the civil and criminal offices. The former first deputy, Linda Weaver, was making a salary of around $50,000; therefore, said Vilello, bumping Bee’s pay up to $38,000 would still give the county a savings of $12,000 per year.

“I don’t think my opinion was taken into consideration,” Vilello said.

County policy states that employees moving into a new position will either be offered the starting salary of their new pay grade or a 5 percent pay increase, depending on which salary is higher.

In this case, commissioners were poised to approve a 5 percent increase from Bee’s previous salary as clerk-typist II/scanner/microfilmer in the prothonotary. The starting salary for a first deputy in the prothonotary is $31,354.

“I don’t ask this lightly,” said Vilello at the meeting. “It’s gut-wrenching, I know what the taxpayers (pay).”

She requested a motion to table the vote but no salary board member seconded it. She asked if there was an appeal process and commissioners said no.

As Vilello continued to argue her point, Commissioner Jeff Snyder said, “Don’t give me attitude.”

Every department head in the county “has the same feeling you do,” he said. “We’re following what we’ve followed in the past.”

Commissioner Pete Smeltz said he respected Vilello’s passion as department head, but said the county needs to be consistent in setting salaries.

Vilello said Bee would probably seek employment in a higher-paying county due to the salary commissioners set.

He said if the county had the funds, “I’d pay ’em a lot more money.”

At recent voting meetings, commissioners have discussed the growing problem of competing with private industry for competent workers.

Smeltz has said private companies often have higher salaries and attract the best of the best, leaving county governments with many positions to fill and not enough qualified applicants. County governments, he said, don’t have as much flexibility with salaries because they must be prudent with taxpayer money.

Later in the discussion, Smeltz said in January, when the salary board sets annual salaries, they could discuss a possible in-house hiring amendment to incorporate years of experience, seniority and ability into the salary process.

All three commissioners and Treasurer Michelle Kunes voted to approve Bee’s salary at $34,281. Vilello voted against it.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, Robert “Butch” Rooney, former county auditor, read a proposal to enable county residents to pay their real estate taxes by way of credit card.

“It will give us, the taxpayers, the ability to extend the deadline by 30 days,” he said, since credit card companies don’t request payment for one month’s bill until the next month.

Also, some credit cardholders could get 1.5 to 5 percent back on their purchases depending on what kind of rewards system their card has.

Treasurer Kunes said the county takes credit card payments online for township taxes for which it is the sole collector, including Porter and Beech Creek townships, Beech Creek Borough and Lock Haven. But the treasurer’s office has no mode for people to pay their taxes by credit card in-house.

Kunes said she and commissioners met with M&T Bank several months ago about putting in a credit card machine but the bank never got back to them.

The county will continue talks with the bank to rectify the credit card situation and hopes to put in a machine when the treasurer’s office moves to the Piper Building later this month.

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