2“They” are the commissioners, who last week approved a $10,862 raise for Jeffery S. Uroseva, the chief building official.
But, as we delved deeper into the story, it became clear that the commissioners had given some thought to the issue and were able to put forth a persuasive case.
Nonetheless, the 17.6 percent increase — $61,701 to $72,563 — is still a bitter pill to swallow. As the nation struggles to shed the baggage from the economic recession, many private sector workers are facing another year without a pay raise. Indeed, being able to hold on to a job is a challenge. Layoffs have been the norm for the past several years, which hasn’t been the case in government in general. Public sector entities have reduced their payrolls by not filling vacancies, but they have largely avoided furloughing workers.
Considering that government and other public entities operate, to a great extent, on tax dollars, granting anyone, even a person who is taking on added responsibilities, such a huge boost seems irresponsible at best.
Mahoning County commissioners Anthony Traficanti, Carol Rimedio-Righetti and David Ditzler, who took office in January, had a compelling argument for giving Uroseva, head of the county’s building inspection office, more money. He got a 3 percent hike six years ago.
Last month, the county office took over the city of Youngstown’s building inspection services, thereby allowing City Hall to disband its own department. In so doing, Youngstown got rid of its chief building official, Brenda Williams, and has saved her $72,563.66 annual salary.
It’s no accident that Williams’ salary is the same as what Uroseva will now earn. Commissioners Traficanti, Rimedio-Righetti and Ditzler explained that he deserved to make what his city government counterpart did because he is now in charge of all building inspections in the county.
It’s important to note that we have consistently supported the city and county merging services and have long advocated the joining of the health departments (with the county left standing) and the consolidation of the 911 emergency telephone system.
We have also, for three decades, pushed for the consolidation of the court system below the common pleas level, doing away with the municipal courts in Youngstown, Campbell and Struthers, the four county courts and the mayors courts.
We, therefore, applaud city and county officials for bringing building inspections under one roof.
That said, commissioners cannot be blind to the fact that approving a 17.6 percent pay raise, however justified, will rub most private sector taxpayers the wrong way.
After all, these are uncertain economic times for governments at all levels. Not only is the federal government on a cost-cutting mission, but state government under Republican Gov. John Kasich has served notice that counties, cities, townships and villages can no longer look to Columbus to help fund their operations.
Against that backdrop, commissioner Traficanti, Rimedio-Righetti and Ditzler should have been more cautious in their decision.
While it is true that the county building inspection office does not receive any general fund money and is funded solely by building-permit fees, Uroseva is still a public employee. As such, he is open to scrutiny.
Was a pay raise justified? Yes, it was. But $10,862 is just too much for the taxpayers to swallow.