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WARREN Job's pay, duties raise concerns



Published: Mon, July 30, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The question is whether the proposed salary is too high for the new job.

By AMANDA C. DAVIS

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- Some officials and lawmakers are concerned with the proposed salary and job description for a position the city is trying to create.

Warren is looking to establish the new full-time position of tax administrator to fall under the authority of the city's part-time treasurer.

A committee of area businessmen has been working with John Homlitas, D-3rd, and Bob Marchese, D-at large, to draft job descriptions and duties for the position.

Panel's proposal: The committee's proposal says the tax administrator would receive pay and benefits equal to what the city's deputy law director makes, or $57,850 per year. It would cost an additional $12,500 for insurance benefits under a family plan.

City Auditor David Griffing said he's heard the committee plans to propose that the city pay its share of the retirement pension and pick up the employee's portion as well, a move that would cost Warren another $12,756 per year.

Griffing said the part-time treasurer will make just under $9,700 per year. Benefits, if offered, would be additional, along with the employer's share toward pension.

Treasurer Patricia Leon-Games makes $51,132 a year for duties that will be split between the two positions.

Griffing said her benefits cost the city $12,500 per year and the city kicks in $6,900 per year for its share toward her pension with Public Employees Retirement System.

Altogether, Leon-Games costs the city $70,532.

After the first of the year, the city could begin paying nearly $90,000 a year in salary, pension and benefits for the treasurer and tax administrator.

Councilman's point: Councilman Alford Novak, D-2nd, said the city should not be paying more for the two positions than what it pays for one.

The tax administrator's proposed salary is too high, he explained, and would have to be adjusted before he'll support it.

The committee's proposal also says the tax administrator would be appointed by the treasurer.

Voters in May elected John Taylor to replace Leon-Games as treasurer. He'll take over in January.

Council agreed earlier this year to make the treasurer's post part time.

Novak said he doesn't think the treasurer should appoint the tax administrator unless a majority of council approves the choice.

Council's finance committee was to meet today to discuss the position. Lawmakers have said they'll meet in special session in August, when they normally recess, to consider legislation regarding the position.

Homlitas said the tax administrator's position is important to Warren's financial future and warrants a decent wage.

"Taxpayers have indicated they want no stones left unturned in the quest for tax dollars," he said. "In order to do that, we'll conduct an exhaustive hunt for the person to best accomplish that."

Duties, requirements: Proposed duties for the tax administrator are to enforce the city's income tax laws and assist in collections.

The committee wants the tax administrator to have at least a two-year degree in finance, accounting or a related field. A bachelor's degree and previous experience with tax administration is preferred.

The city decided to make changes to the income tax department, under Leon-Games' authority, after a state performance audit said the city could be collecting as much as $2.2 million more each year.

Leon-Games has said the audit was based on incorrect information and that "there's not $2.2 million out there" to collect.

Residents' views: Some city residents also spoke out on the matter.

Sally Shubert-Hall of Perkins Drive Northwest said the city should have kept a full-time treasurer.

The proposed salary for the tax administrator is "atrocious" and a waste of taxpayers' money, she said.

Genevieve Lucas of Perkins Circle said the committee should seek a candidate with at least a bachelor's degree in accounting, not an associate's degree with preferred experience.

"It sounds to me like another job they're creating for a friend or relative," she added.

Mayor Hank Angelo said he was included in initial discussion about establishing the position before the committee was formed, back when salary discussions fluctuated between $29,000 and the low $40,000s.

The mayor explained he's concerned because his administration, along with the state auditor's office, have made it clear that more taxes need to be collected.

"I don't understand why there's no actual requirement that the person to be hired have any prior income tax experience," he said. "It makes no sense."




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