Published March 7, 2008
There's this story we'll be running Sunday that you'll want to read, and perhaps even help us further report in due time.
It deals with our tax dollars, and more specifically, how much Mahoning County government spent on hefty employee raises after the 2007 sales tax levy. That was the vote last May in which we made permanent a sale tax that currently generates $14 million per year..
Don’t be stunned if you did not hear about pay raises as part of the sales tax levy. It was never mentioned.
The headline of our Sunday story is that more than 300 county people got pay raises last year in excess or 6 percent, with many of those raises in excess of 15, 20, 30 and 40 percent.
But there's a reality check in that headline, which is where I have some conflict with this raise situation.
In defense of the county, pay is low across several job areas. Example: 911 dispatchers started at $21K before the raises. With the sales tax, they now start at $27K.
People also got raises when they stepped into critical vacant jobs.
And lastly, plenty of talented county people went some time without raises for years. Plenty of others got normal raises last year.
The 300 raises we point to Sunday are out of 1,924 county worker raises we sorted though on spreadsheet after spreadsheet. Most of the 1,924 got normal raises. And of the 300, about 150 or so workers got pay hikes that raise our eyebrows. The other half can be chalked off to the dispatchers and raises for bona fide job vacancies.
The county officials cited just about everything they could to sell the public on the levy renewal.
But this is the one fact that they declined to state: “.... part of this money will go to pay raises as high as 20, 30, 40 and 50 percent to about 150 people who have worked hard, who are critical to our operations.”
At at time when they were all finger pointing at each other over one another’s integrity issues with The Cafaro Co. and the new county building, none of them had the integrity to shoot straight with taxpayers.
In a nutshell, 4 top county managers under George Tablack got raises of 21, 21, 26 and 31 percent last year. Six prosecutors under Paul Gains received increases ranging from 11 to 23 percent.
‘They are worth it” and “We can’t not have them” are the reasons the county’s top officials (not just Tablack and Gains) will offer.
If it was their own company and their own money, I can’t believe raises of 21, 21, 26 and 31 percent would have been offered. Find me a company in the valley that gave 4 such raises to staffers last year.
Additionally, many raises fall under dubious promotions and part-time to full-time status changes.
Judge Theresa Dellick gave a 106 percent raise to a guy by promoting him from corrections officer to the newly created post of community relations officer.
Let me repeat: “Newly created post.”
When the county did not have cash, the judicial branch got along fine without this post. The court stayed open and there were no reported protests outside the court caused by poor community relations.
But give county officials $14 million, and all of a sudden a court cannot live without a community relations officer.
Check out Sunday’s story. There’s more of this to read.
Then stay with us this year and share your concerns because we aim for this to be just the first story for us this year on this topic. We’ll grow the examination beyond just county operations.
The rate of increase in government worker pay is growing at a rate stronger than many private sector jobs. Read this story. A recent job sector report noted that one of the growth areas in U.S. employment was in government jobs.
It’s a concern, and it sure looks scary when Boardman closes fire stations. That needs fixing.
But when a cash-strapped county offers huge pay raises and debatable promotions, and creates formerly unnecessary new jobs, that too, might need fixing.