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Lackawanna County Commissioners OK Salary Hike For Top Jobs Starting In 2020

December 20, 2018

JESSUP — Salaries for Lackawanna County’s top elected offices will increase once new terms for those offices commence, some in 2020 and others in 2022.

At a special meeting held Wednesday at the county 911 Center in Jessup, commissioners approved an guaranteeing future salary hikes for the offices of commissioner, recorder of deeds, clerk of judicial records, sheriff, coroner, controller, treasurer and register of wills. The original ordinance would have provided four consecutive years of 4 percent annual pay hikes for all those offices beginning in 2020, but officials amended it last week to assure compliance with part of the state constitution that prohibits changing elected officers’ salaries during their current term.ammended last week to assure compliance with part of the state constitution that prohibits changing elected officers’ salaries during their current terms

Under the amended ordinance, raises only apply to officials elected or appointed after the ordinance’s enactment. That effectively means only those offices that begin a new term in 2020 — commissioner, clerk of judicial records, coroner, controller and treasurer — will get 4 percent raises in 2020 and 2021.

New terms for the offices of recorder of deeds, register of wills and sheriff don’t begin until 2022. At that point, salaries for those offices will immediately increase to match those of the other row officers. Then, in 2022 and 2023, commissioners and all seven row offices will receive 4 percent raises, per the ordinance.

The ordinance passed by a vote of 2-1, with Commissioner Laureen Cummings voting no. While Cummings called herself “probably one of the biggest advocates” of row officers getting raises, she argued 4 percent is too high.

“I do think that it was time for an increase, I just can’t agree with 4 percent and four years in a row of 4 percent is just way too much,” she said.

Commissioners earn a base annual salary of $76,017, while the other row officers earn an annual base salary of $66,174. Those salaries last increased in 2003, a fact several row officers noted when the ordinance was first proposed earlier this month. While those salaries remained stagnant, the salaries of county union employees have increased by about 40 percent since 2003, Controller Gary DiBileo said Dec. 5.

Commissioners in Lackawanna County make less than commissioners in several other third-class counties, according to 2017 salary data provided by the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania. In Berks County, for example, commissioners earn about $92,710 per year, while commissioners in Chester and York counties earn annual salaries of $82,235 and about $87,910, respectively.

While acknowledging that voting to raise the salaries can have political repercussions, Commissioner Jerry Notarianni said the pay hikes are long overdue.

“Being in this position is politically uncomfortable conceivably, but you have to have the courage to do the right thing and this is the right thing,” he said.

Recorder of Deeds Evie Rafalko McNulty agreed.

“I’m happy the commissioners had the courage to do it,” she said. “They did the right thing, and they have respect for the work we do.”

Contact the writer: jhorvath@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9141; @jhorvathTT on Twitter

In other business

• Commissioners approved 2-to-1 a contract with Barry Isett & Associates to study accessibility for walkers and cyclists in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties, specifically Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. The joint effort between both counties is receiving funding from the state Department of Conservation and Environmental Resources and the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund. Commissioner Laureen Cummings cast the lone no vote after criticizing the plan as a veiled effort to get more cars off the road. She said a joint county transportation plan should prioritize improving roads and bridges, not bike lanes and footpaths.

• Commissioners approved a plan to refinance a series of bonds in 2020, locking in a lower interest rate that will save the county about $2 million to $2.5 million over time.

• Commissioners approved the paying of two separate $1,125 legal bills submitted by West Chester-based Donatoni & Crichton, one of the firms representing the county related to the ongoing statewide grand jury probe into sex abuse at the county jail. The $2,250 in new bills brings the running total of legal bills incurred by the county stemming from the probe to approximately $626,705, county Controller Gary DiBileo said.

— JON O’CONNELL

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