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Commish, treasurer disagree on salaries

January 20, 2012

Auglaize County Treasurer April Bowersock

A disagreement over the Auglaize County Treasurer’s Office salary line item will be revisited again as no resolution was made Thursday when the treasurer and commissioners met to discuss the issue.

Auglaize County Treasurer April Bowersock used extra funds left in the salary line item to give two remaining employees raises to $18 an hour from $15.83 an hour after a third employee retired at the end of November. Then in January she raised their salaries an additional 2 percent when commissioners agreed to give cost of living salary increases to county departments across the board.

She said the increase essentially is the same as the $8,000 she’s budgeted for seasonal help the past four years and had not used.

“I knew I was not going to fill the position and wanted to compensate my employees for taking on more duties now that there are just three of us,” Bowersock said. “We handle $36 million in a given year and are the frontrunners for disgruntled tax payers. I wanted to compensate my employees for the added responsibility. You didn’t support me in that way.”

She said she already gave her employees the raises and she’s not taking them back.

“I’m not doing this vindictively, I feel I’m rewarding people who were kept at a minimum way too long,” Bowersock said.

In Bowersock’s 2012 budget commissioners removed the extra money from the salary line item for the employee whose position wasn’t replaced, and also took out the $8,000 that has been budgeted for seasonal help when needed. They took the number of employees in the office, the point they were at on the salary schedule and then added 2 percent in their calculations.

Using a salary schedule in place since 2001 to do their budgeting, Commissioner John Bergman said, “Everyone wrote descriptions of what each person in each office did and everyone signed off on it at the time. We don’t know what everyone does, all we can look at is the salary line item each year, figure out the number of employees each office has and how they fall on the pay scale.”

Commissioner Doug Spencer said it gives them some foundation, which is needed in the budgeting process.

The difference between the commissioners’ salary line for the Treasurer’s Office and Bowersock’s will result in a negative balance by mid-October.

As of now, neither side is backing down from their side.

“It could mean layoffs or we close the office,” Bowersock said.

Spencer said there are other options, including furloughs or having employees work less than 40 hours a week.

“It could mean we cave in, it could mean we do a specific study of your office, it could mean they work four days a week instead of five days a week,” Spencer said.

A similar concern from the Auglaize County Veterans Services Office in 2007 resulted in a salary survey for just that office compared to other Veteran Services offices from comparable counties. The cost of the survey for that individual office was unavailable but a review of new job duties resulted in a salary increase for the employee in question.

Commissioners said it may be time to update the entire county’s salary survey, but at an anticipated cost of at least $25,000, the funds just are not there now and once it is done it could take several years to implement.    

The current salary survey used in the county was developed in 2001 and was implemented over a three-year period, however it was up to the department supervisors and elected officials to get their employees up to the average if they desired. Implementing the schedule meant that once brought up to the average level, county employees were only to receive wage increases if the commissioners decided to grant cost of living adjustments at the beginning of each year.

Bowersock said when she did her own study in Auglaize County, clerks in other departments, including probate and municipal court are making more than deputy clerks in her office and some of those employees were hired after the two people working in the Treasurer’s Office.

“I’m the elected official and I feel I know what’s best, what my employees are worth,” Bowersock said. “You don’t know what my people are worth.

“I’m just looking out for my office,” she said, noting that she felt as if the commissioners were trying to micromanage her office.

Commissioners assured her that is not what they were trying to do or wanted.

“You have your world you need to take care of and we have a bunch of worlds we need to keep in a parallel universe,” Spencer said.

Bergman said a concern is that other county offices would follow suit.

“I think you do a good job managing your office and I understand the challenges of operating a small office,” Bergman said. “The real hard part for me is giving that large of an increase only because the money was available in the line item. You did it 35 days before the new year then piggy backed on 2 percent. We feel strongly about not doing interim increases.”

Bowersock, who has not seen the salary schedule since she took office in 2004, said knowing that she had the money available in the line item, she brought the salaries up to where she felt they should be.

Suggesting that other county offices and departments may not be following the salary schedule, Bowersock said she should have kept her mouth shut when she brought up the pay increase to the commissioners during an executive session of her budget meeting in December, but she didn’t want to operate that way.

Spencer said he had no knowledge of other county offices not following the salary schedule, but it was something they could look into further, but if they considered updating the salary schedule, why spend the money if it were to be compromised a year or two later.

“We’re in a very difficult situation and predicament,” Spencer said. “Nothing with salary is a personal thing. It’s all a numbers thing.”

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