Panel seeks raises for 115 CSB employees

Recommendation comes 2 days after tax levy OK’d

By Peter H. Milliken


Money for pay raises for union workers at the Mahoning County Children Services Board is included in the 2011 budget that will be presented to the board Tuesday.

The board and county commissioners will decide whether those raises will be granted.

The budget was recommended to the full board by the board’s finance committee Thursday, two days after voters approved by a 2-1 margin the board’s countywide .85-mill, five-year renewal levy. CSB’s election ad for the levy, which raises $1.75 million annually, urged voters to “Please vote YES to continue the care and protection of abused, neglected, and dependent children of Mahoning County.”

Had the levy failed, $1.8 million would have had to be cut from the budget, and layoffs would be occurring, said Daniel Thomas, fiscal officer.

Denise Stewart, executive director, said any discussion of raises would have been unlikely if the levy had failed.

For the raises to be granted to the employees, the board would first have to adopt the budget and then take a separate vote to grant the raises. County commissioners then would have to approve the raises.

CSB entered 2010 with a $7 million carryover from 2009, and projects revenues of $14 million this year, with expenditures of $15.95 million.

The 2011 budget anticipates a carry-in of $5.1 million from 2010, revenues of $13.17 million and expenses of $15.8 million.

The board has reduced expenses through recent retirements of long-time employees at the top of the pay scale and through closely monitoring the costs of child placements, including costly hospital placements, Thomas said.

The 3 percent cost-of-living raises, which had been scheduled to take effect Feb. 1 of each year, were included in a three-year contract between the board and the Communications Workers of America, which took effect Feb. 1, 2009.

The raises were never granted because the county commissioners approved the contract, but with a salary freeze, Stewart said. CSB employees haven’t had a pay raise since January 2008.

The 115-member union, which represents clerical and group home workers and social workers at the child-welfare agency, recently asked that the raises be revisited. The social workers average about $32,000 a year, Thomas said.

Stewart and Dr. Tom Gemma, finance committee chairman, said they’d like to be able to give the raises, which the union and management agreed upon.

“I support what the union and the board agreed to do,” Stewart said.

“We are looking to honor the contract that we signed with them in 2009,” Gemma said, noting that the employees agreed to a temporary pay freeze after the contract was signed.

Stewart also said the raises would help the agency remain competitive in employee recruitment and retention.

Social workers in Mahoning with a college degree start at $29,000 a year. Their Trumbull County colleagues start at $31,400, Stewart said.

Mahoning County Children Services gets half its funding from three countywide real- estate tax levies, including the one the voters renewed Tuesday, 40 percent from the federal government and 10 percent from the state.

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