Mahoning CSB approves pay raises for workers

By Peter H. Milliken


By a vote of 9-1 and one abstention, the Mahoning County Children Services Board has approved pay raises for its union workers.

Board member Victoria Wiery cast the no vote, and board member Bev Reyes abstained.

The county commissioners must now approve the increases if they are to take effect.

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

The raises were never granted because the county commissioners approved the contract, but with a salary freeze. 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 in salary.

With union members filling almost all available seats in the audience at Tuesday’s CSB meeting, the vote on the pay raises followed CSB’s approval of a 2011 budget. That budget anticipates a carry-in of $5.1 million from 2010, revenues of $13.17 million and expenses of $15.8 million, including money to cover the pay raises.

The board entered this year with a $7 million carry-over from 2009, and projects revenues for this year at $14 million and expenses at $15.95 million.

The votes to approve the budget and the pay raises came just two weeks after voters renewed by a 2-1 margin the board’s county-wide 0.85-mill, five-year real estate tax levy, which raises $1.75 million annually.

“Is there a reason why this was brought out so soon after the levy passing? I’ve been deluged with calls,” Reyes said. “It’s just really bad timing. ... It brought an outcry throughout the community,” she added.

“They’ll never vote for another children’s levy again,” Wiery said of the voters.

“I really got some very angry phone calls from voters,” she said. “Many, many people are being laid off. ... It just is not appropriate” to grant raises in the current economic climate, she added.

Board Member Calvin Jones said the raises were tabled until the board could be assured of having the continued income from passage of the levy.

“This is a collective bargaining agreement that we signed and are bound to uphold,” said Board Member Bridget Kennedy.

Luis Arroyo, board chairman, asked the board’s lawyer, Thomas Infante, what might happen if the board rejects the pay increases.

Infante replied that the union and management would have to go back to the bargaining table and the union might issue a strike notice or go to mediation. The money for the raises has been in the board’s budgets in 2009 and 2010, he noted. “This was money that has already been allocated. It’s not new money,” he said.

Reyes said she’d be surprised if the county commissioners approve the raises in the current climate of impending further layoffs in county government.

John H. Jemison, a placement worker belonging to the CWA, said that he agreed with the board’s decision on the raises. “We’re only asking for what they had approved before,” said Jemison, who has worked for the county since January 1990.

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