Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Roman v. Browning on Pay Hikes For Row Offices

Lehigh County Commissioners are currently considering a payhike for row officers. Chairman Dean Browning may be the only Republican supporting this raise. Andy Roman, although willing to spend County money for a bi-county health department, opposes spending any more money for row officers. Here are the two competing views, stated civilly.

Dean Browning (responding to a constituent):

Thank you very much for taking the time to write to us and express your concern. The salaries for the row officers (Clerk of Judicial Records, Controller, Coroner, and Sheriff) are set by the Board of Commissioners and must be established a minimum of 365 days before they take office. The last change in their salary was approved in 2006 setting their pay at $62,500 each beginning in 2008. Their pay has remained at that level since then and will stay at there though 2011. The bill currently under consideration keeps their salary at $62,500 through 2012 and then calls for a $1,500 increase in 2013, 2014 and 2015. If this is approved, those position will have gone five years without an increase and then receive subsequent increases that mirror the expected growth in the County’s revenue at a constant millage rate. In other words, the increase in their salary scheduled for 2013 would be covered without requiring an increase in property taxes to pay for it. In the alternative, if we don’t take action this year then their salaries would remain at the current though 2015, a period of eight years without any increase. Given the importance of the positions in question, I believe the fiscally responsible approach is to provide adequately compensation for these positions so that competent, qualified individuals are interested in seeking them. To me, it is being “penny wise and pound foolish” to do otherwise. For example, does it really benefit the county to save $1,500 three years from now if that discourages a qualified individual from running for controller and in turn that results in a future failure to uncover potential fraud? I would think the recent experience in Lower Macungie would indicate that this type of frugality is often self defeating.

Thanks again for writing and expressing your view.

Andy Roman (from an email to Commissioners):

I will vote "NO" because now is not the time to be giving pay raises.

It sends a bad message and complicates union negotiations at a critical time.

Plus, we have no merit system or evaluation criteria to justify giving pay increases even if we had the money
.

38 comments:

Clem said...

Public officials are not very good at anticipating anything. From school districts to the Feds, every revenue lament includes
"unexpected" and "unprecedented".

Perhaps they should look at gaining more flexibility, to adjust salaries when the money is there and to freeze/cut when crisis arises, instead of making crapshoot promises that can be rendered undeliverable by a host of variables. That would and should be a reasonable expectation of someone who seeks public employment. It is certainly a reasonable expectation for private industry when external forces wreak havoc on otherwise well-run and profitable businesses.

Roman has this nailed.

Anonymous said...

Andy is dead-on. What a refreshing change.

Bernie O'Hare said...

If you want good people, you pay them a decent wage.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

What will the pay raise cost the county and what are the costs of the Bi-County Health Department?

Am I correct that Browning is ready to forgo the past pay increase of the commissioners to compensate for the row officers' increase? Didn't Andy vote for that pay increase?



Scott Armstrong

Clem said...

The best and brightest argument, again? Time to test that hypothesis.

Leave the public salaries where they are until we see that we can not attract qualified people to run.

The teachers make the same argument. Well, those in Saucon didn't get what they said they needed to prevent an exodus. How many fled to a better paying district?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Clem, I'd argue we are close to that point now. n any eventm this may be a moot point in a few years. The state high court is really pushing for uniformity throughout the state with regard to row officers. They may soon end up all being appointed and may have to be qualitified in records storage.

Anonymous said...

I disagree completely with Dean. We cannot afford an increase. There are a lot of people that would gladly work for that $62,000. Dean if you can't the money somewhere you can't raise their salaries. DEAN WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO YOU. YOUR ARE SPENDING LIKE THE DEM'S?????????????????

Anonymous said...

Do Andy, No Dean

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Go Andy, No Dean

Anonymous said...

Do the math people, Dean voted against and has refused to take his commissioner pay increase, is against spending $500,000 annually for a Bi-County Health Department. Yet Andy who voted for the pay raise( and takes it), and is for spending the $500,000 is the fiscal conservative?
By the way, why the anonymous posts on this? If you are so sure of your opinion why not sign? Can one assume anonymous posters are cowards?

Scott Armstrong

Clem said...

Roman has the right position here. That position makes him a hypocrite, but not incorrect.

Roman should now step up and undo his own increase. He probably won't, but he should.

Clem said...

BOH -

I get the talent level thing, don't disagree. $4,500 more isn't going to draw a Fortune 500 Controller. So, you end up spending more money just to spend more money, that might help somewhere else.

How the hell is it the Court's business to tell counties how to staff row offices and how to pay them?

Bernie O'Hare said...

It becomes the court's business when 67 different counties have 67 different ways to file judgments. This balkanization results in uncertaintly, the last thing we need in a state wheree the first judgment filed is the one with priority.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Can one assume anonymous posters are cowards? "

Not necessarily. If someone hides behind anonymity to launch a personal attack, he's a coward. But disagreeing on substance is fine by me.

Anonymous said...

"If you want good people, you pay them a decent wage."

With 10% unemployment and a bleak outlook, lots of good people are looking for work and would accept the current county salaries as a "decent wage." I am one.

Anonymous said...

Where is all the money the county "Saved" in the consolidation of the Row Officers?

eckville press said...

Bernie, some quick facts from the U.S. census bureau.

In 2008, when the last raise went into effect, the median household income in Lehigh County was $53,894, approximately $9,000 below the row offices individual income. Sad.

Also in 2008 the poverty level in Lehigh County was 10.2%

That said, if the row office officials are not content with their current level of income, let them walk.

Anonymous said...

The "you need to pay to attract", argument is bullshit. The best attorneys practice Law because they are good and make a boatload of money. No matter what the pay was over the decades, local lawyers crawled over each other to become judges. These guys are not the best and the brightest and unless you want to pay office holders seven figures that is just the way it is. so enough with the canned political bullshit. If you left these salaries just as they are you would get the same caliber of candidates.

Stoffa and Northampton County pulled this shit in Northampton County and look at what we have, some of the most incompetent officials in the state.

Stop the Bullshit!!!

Anonymous said...

Man... I really love all the anti government types that think they can do these government jobs better. Bullshit! If they could, the would. Frankly, most of them are not qualified nor experienced to do the managerial/supervisory jobs. I find it funny how the unemployed so called private sector employees think.. let me say again think, they could step in an run the court's business with absolutely no relevant direct experience. I find it laughable that these same private sector workers think that they could run a classroom and teach. Again, if they could they would. I challenge any of the unemployed to try to even apply for, qualify and even be interviewed for one of what they call a "cushion" job. Enough said.

Wayne said...

Anon 10:29 said:

"I find it laughable that these same private sector workers think that they could run a classroom and teach. Again, if they could they would. I challenge any of the unemployed to try to even apply for, qualify and even be interviewed for one..."
-----------------------------

Of course they're not "qualified", because the requirements are a sheepskin diploma in mob control and the latest education fad. Yet parochial schools running on a shoestring and homeschoolers consistently put out higher scoring college bound students.
---
The people who haven't been getting decent raises or working hours because of this economy are expected to sacrifice so others can get good raises?

Andy Roman said...

In order for the County Commissioners to set an example as Civil Servants for the rest of the County workforce, The Row Officers included, the Charter requires that the Commissioners stipend be capped at 1/2 of the lowest paid employee of the County.

(The joke is we get paid 1/2 of what the guy shoveling manure at the Zoo receives and we probably sling some of our own from time to time)

In 2008 1/2 of the lowest paid person was $8,200.00. The Commissioners then set the pay at $7,000.00 which is well below the allowed cap. It was increased $1,500.00 from $5,500.00 which was in effect for 12 years.

So the current Commissioner pay is well below the Charter requirement cap since 1/2 of the lowest paid person is now closer to $10,000.00

Therefore, I believe the Commissioners are already setting the right example and are serving the people of Lehigh County diligently, while being paid a modest stipend for their work.

There is no intention of increasing the Commissioner stipend and there should be no increase in the Row Office salaries as well. I personally believe there should be a Salary/Wage Freeze during these tough economic times.

Any other characterization of the Commissioners stipend is intellectually dishonest, unreasonable and demeaning to those of us who are prudent and take our job seriously.

I just thought putting things in proper perspective might shed some light on the truth.

Anonymous said...

Andy,

The argument you are using to justify your vote for, and acceptance of, your own pay raise sounds similar to the one made to justify a raise in pay(in two years)for the row officers. Please explain the intellectual dishonesty.
Furthermore, Dean Browning is asking for a pay raise for others yet you wanted one for yourself. Prudent choice as an elected officail?

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

Bernie O'Hare said...

"If you want good people, you pay them a decent wage."

***********************************

This was the argument used in Allentown to justify raising the Mayor's salary.

Running in the subsequent election were Ed Pawlowski (virtually unopposed in the Democrat primary) and Tony Phillips (unopposed in the Republican primary).

Case closed.

Anonymous said...

Scott Armstrong said:

"By the way, why the anonymous posts on this? If you are so sure of your opinion why not sign? Can one assume anonymous posters are cowards?"

***********************************

Scott -

We all know there are unbalanced people out there who might disagree with ones viewpoint and try to make things personal. Readers of this blog are well aware of that.

I'll choose not to subject myself or my family to that. If you've made a different choice for you and your family, that's fine.

Also, I prefer to discuss the issues based on the facts, not personalities.

No anonymous poster (up to the time of your post) took any personal shots. They were all discussing the issues rationally. Why the need to try to diminish their opinion?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Andy, Thanks for chiming in. I believe you and most other elected officials are grossly underpaid.

Andy said...

Mr. Armstrong,

I served on the School Board 4 years with no pay. I am now serving my 6th year as a County Commissioner for a stipend, which doesn't cover the cost of getting elected.

I have outlined the charter requirements for Commissioner pay. The 2007 pay package included the County Executive, Row Officers and Commissioners all together.

Now I believe there should be a freeze on all salary/wages because of the bad economy. It's as simple as that.

What have you done for the community except be chief critic? Critics are a dime a dozen, for they only know how to tear down but never build up.

Go do something constructive and maybe then someone will listen to you. For you have no credibility.

Andy

Anonymous said...

Andy,

On may see both ignorance and apparent hypocrisy in your post. You are ignorant of my efforts and appear hypocritical because of your claim that some pay raises are justified(for you) while others aren't(for those besides yourself). One may assume from your actions that you feel the right time to raise an elected officials pay is when it is yours.
One may think you more sincere if you refused to accept the pay raise in light of the current fiscal situation? Is that fair?
For the record I am neither for or against the pay raise, I just prefer consistency.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

anon 6:57,

Too frightened/wary/nervous to post your name with your opinion on a local blog? OK.

Scott Armstrong

Bernie O'Hare said...

No Scott. He explained himself, and I'm fine with it. Many people have small businesses or hold positions that prevent them from expressing themselves publicly. I want to hear from them. It is only people who hide behind anonymity to launch personal attacks that bother me. I'm pretty sure that you or someone very much like you sometimes comments as "Allentownm Democratic Voter." This is anonymous, but makes hilarious points about the follow of unthinking lever pullers. I love that. But I do not insist that people identify themselves. Unfortunately, some people think that gives them a license to launch personal attacks. But most anonymous commenters make legitimate points.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,


This seems like a personal attack to me.

"Anonymous said...

I disagree completely with Dean. We cannot afford an increase. There are a lot of people that would gladly work for that $62,000. Dean if you can't the money somewhere you can't raise their salaries. DEAN WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO YOU. YOUR ARE SPENDING LIKE THE DEM'S?????????????????"

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Coward 9:27,

I am a landscaper. Want to work in the 90 degree weather with me digging holes and hauling mulch cupcake?

I have the guts to sign my name. Knock on my door anytime wimp.

Scott Armstrong

Bernie O'Hare said...

Scott, I have deleted 9:27, an example of the kind of anonymous personal attack I meant and to which you have often been subjected. But the other comment? Being compared to Democrats is a compliment :-)

eckville press said...

"In order for the County Commissioners to set an example as Civil Servants for the rest of the County workforce, The Row Officers included, the Charter requires that the Commissioners stipend be capped at 1/2 of the lowest paid employee of the County."

"Any other characterization of the Commissioners stipend is intellectually dishonest, unreasonable and demeaning to those of us who are prudent and take our job seriously."

Mr. Roman,
The Lehigh County Home Rule Charter also allows the Commissioners to waive their stipend.

Compensation:

"Nothing in this Charter shall be construed as prohibiting or preventing an elected or appointed officer from foregoing or waiving his or her salary or other compensation in whole or part. The Board shall not be entitled to receive any fringe benefits."

"I served on the School Board 4 years with no pay. I am now serving my 6th year as a County Commissioner for a stipend, which doesn't cover the cost of getting elected."

Thank you for your service.

As far as the cost of getting elected, would Lehigh County Commissioners consider a ballot question amending the Home Rule Charter in limiting the amount of money an candidate could raise?

Anonymous said...

Scott Armstrong said:

Anon 6:57,

Too frightened/wary/nervous to post your name with your opinion on a local blog? OK.

**********************************

Scott -

I agree with you on many issues, but your confrontational approach (at times) will not win anyone over.

You might want to take a break and look at the big picture.

Anonymous said...

Scott, you are not being consistent, and you need to stop carrying water for Dean Browning. It's not attractive.

Anonymous said...

anon 12:41,

You need to sign your name to be credible. Otherwise it is just another anonymous personal insult.

Boring

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

anon 8:17,

It is no small thing that people direct comments to others anonymously. Unless one is protecting a source of vital information that must be made public it is cowardly not to sign.I stand on that statement.

Scott Armstrong